Online first: Province announces changes to travel restrictions, and addition of “steady 10” to Orange phase household bubbles

New Brunswick – In the first live press briefing since Monday, Jan. 25, Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, and Dorothy Shephard, minister of health, today, Friday, Jan. 29, updated COVID-19 information and protocols in the province due to the dangers posed by the new variants of the virus which are showing up around the world and in Canada.

“Things have changed dramatically in the world, and those changes are the result of new strains or variants,” said Russell.

“To control the virus, we have to acknowledge this new information.”

Russell said these new variants present a 30 to 70 per cent higher transmission rate, and are equally increased in transmissibility.

She said as a result, the expected third wave of the virus will be more damaging than both the first and second waves.

“That means it’s more dangerous,” warned Russell.

She added due to the ability of the variants to spread with considerable alacrity, it can out run contact tracers.

It is due to the increased risks that Russell and Shephard today announced additional travel restrictions in the province.

For those who work away, outside the province, they will not only be required to self-isolate for 14 days on returning to the province, but if they do not self-isolate in a separate dwelling, their entire family must self-isolate for the 14 day period along with them.

Additionally, should anyone in the household test positive for COVID-19, the 14 day self-isolation period starts again from day one for all household members.

Russell said she strongly encourages those who return to the province after working away to self-isolate in a dwelling where they are the only occupant, be it a motel/hotel, in-law suite or self-contained unit.

She said the change has been made to “protect the vulnerable and the healthcare system”, and that Public Health had to adapt its strategies based on the changing landscape of COVID-19.

“I know this is a hardship,” said Russell.  “I’ve received many, many emails from people that it’s causing a hardship. 

“We understand the importance that these jobs play in our economy,” said Russell.

“We are seeking a balance between maintaining the economy and protecting the health of New Brunswickers, and this is always going to be a challenge.”

Russell said also based on the variants of the virus, those regions of the province in the Orange level of recovery should expect to remain there for the coming weeks.

A more positive change to the Orange level of recovery is single-household bubbles may now add what Russell called the “steady 10”.  Each household can add 10 static individuals to their bubbles, and these individuals can eat together in restaurants and visit each other’s households.

Shephard said the travel restrictions may be “strict” and “painful”, but needed.

She said the changes are aimed at reducing the number of contact of those coming into the province who “could potentially be infected with COVID-19”.

“These are not decisions we have made lightly,” added Shephard.

“We took into consideration the risk of the COVID-19 variants combined with the need to vaccinate out population and realized we had two choices,” said Shephard.

“We could loosen border restrictions and rely on regular lockdowns to show the spread, or we could tighten our borders and give New Brunswickers within the province and hopefully get back to having an Atlantic Bubble.”

The following information is from the press release issued on the GNB website:

New cases

Public Health reported 16 new cases today.

The four cases in Zone 1 (Moncton region) are as follows:

  • an individual 19 and under;
  • an individual 20-29; and
  • two people 40-49.

The two cases in Zone 3 (Fredericton region) are as follows:

  • an individual 20-29; and
  • an individual 50-59.

The nine cases in Zone 4 (Edmundston region) are as follows:

  • an individual 30-39;
  • two people 40-49;
  • two people 60-69;
  • two people 70-79;
  • an individual 80-89; and
  • an individual 90 and over.

The one case in Zone 6 (Bathurst region) is as follows:

  • an individual 50-59.

All cases are self-isolating and under investigation.

The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick is 1,218. Since yesterday, 15 people have recovered for a total of 887 recoveries. There have been 17 deaths, and the number of active cases is 313. Four patients are hospitalized with two in intensive care. Yesterday, 2,079 tests were conducted for a total of 196,035.

Details on the new travel restrictions, changes to household bubbles and the “steady 10”, along with all other Orange phase protocols are available online.

editor@stcroixcourier.ca