'We have flattened the curve in New Brunswick,' province's top doctor says
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick reached an important milestone over the weekend that the entire province should be proud of.
All 118 people who had COVID-19 have now recovered, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"Going as long as we have with no new cases is a significant achievement, matched by very few jurisdictions anywhere in the world," Russell said. "We have flattened the curve in New Brunswick. But keeping it flat will require continued vigilance, sacrifice and co-operation from everyone in our province."
The province has now gone 16 days since the last positive test, as no new cases were reported at the news conference in Fredericton on Monday.
While physical distancing continues at the bank machine and at the grocery store, authorities are praising New Brunswickers for their compliance with the rules.
But Dr. Russell said the province can't become "smug" and keeping restrictions on New Brunswick borders is necessary to limit the spread of the virus from neighbouring jurisdictions.
Public health officials say the weakest link in New Brunswick's fight against COVID-19 may be at its borders.
"If you look around us and the bordering provinces or states and the situation there they are currently in with the COVID-19 pandemic give you a sense where our biggest concerns might be," said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.
With New Brunswick in the enviable position of having no new cases for 16 consecutive days, Higgs is taking another look at the risk posed by people crossing the border from other provinces and from the United States. The premier suggested Monday that more scrutiny will be applied at checkpoints to keep COVID-19 out.
"Our risk is at our borders," Higgs said. "We will be strengthening control aound our borders as necessary."
Public health is also looking at the risk from outside New Brunswick, said Dr. Russell.
"We will have to restrict movement in and out of the province in order to stop the spread of the disease," she said. "It is how we can open more quickly by minimizing the risk coming from other provinces and countries where the disease is more prevalent."
Even so, she says it is likely that there will be more cases in the weeks and months ahead.
"Just because we have not detected new cases does not mean the virus is gone," said Dr. Russell. "Continued success will be measured by how we respond to new outbreaks if they happen."
Higgs continues to be the target of intense criticism from the farming community over his government's refusal to allow entry to any more temporary foreign workers. One group accused the premier of treating farming like a "second-class sector."
But Higgs is showing no sign of backing down, and says that entry into New Brunswick may become more difficult for a lot of travellers, not just foreign workers.
The province has set up a job-matching service called JobMatchNB. Employers who need workers can add jobs into the system and get matched with unemployed New Brunswickers who have the requisite skills.
"We need New Brunswickers to step up for New Brunswick to fill these positions," said Higgs. "By stepping up, you will be playing an important role in helping your community, and our province’s economy."
The province confirmed Monday evening that it received a notification from the Public Health Agency of Canada about a person who tested positive for COVID-19 and who passed through the Moncton airport on Monday, April 27 on Westjet Flight 3456 from Toronto.