NEW BRUNSWICK – In a live press briefing from Fredericton today, Tuesday, Oct. 5, Dr. Jennifer Russell, and Premier Blaine Higgs announced the latest in restrictions that will come into effect at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8.
These new Public Health protocols come on the heels of some 734 new cases being reported since Tuesday, Sept. 28, and 15 deaths in the province within the same timeframe.
“The growing caseload of COVID-19 patients is straining our system,” said Russell.
“It is really at the point where things are extremely, extremely stretched.”
Higgs announced that as of Friday, Nov. 19, all Government of New Brunswick employees must be fully vaccinated, or will be put on leave without pay. This mandate includes those in the civil service, education system, health care system, and Crown corporations.
In addition, the mandate will apply to those who work in long-term care facilities, staff and volunteers in all education/school settings, and licensed early learning and childcare facilities.
Higgs said failure to ensure all employees are vaccinated in early learning and childcare facilities could result in the loss of an operating license for those centres.
After the cut-off date of Nov. 19, any staff member who is not fully vaccinated and has not provided a valid medical exemption will be sent home without pay.
Prior to the Nov. 19 cut-off, if a staff member in any of the above mentioned government jobs is identified as a close contact of a positive case, they will be required to self-isolate without pay for a period of 14 days.
The bulk of the new restrictions will impact portions of Zones 1, 3, and 4 to work as a “circuit breaker” to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in those regions.
The areas included are the Moncton region, as far north as and including Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, the upper Saint John River valley north of and including Florenceville-Bristol; and all of the Edmundston region.
These regions will have to adhere to the following measures for a minimum of two weeks, from the GNB website:
- People must limit their contacts to their single household, which includes individuals living together; caregivers for any member of the household; and any parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild living outside the household who requires support.
- No private indoor or outdoor gatherings are permitted.
- Travel to or from circuit breaker regions is restricted, except for those who must travel for essential reasons, including work, health services, child custody, childcare or post-secondary education, or travel to events where proof of vaccination is required.
- All schools will remain open, unless advised otherwise by Public Health. Sports and extra-curricular activities will be paused for those 12 and under. No spectators will be permitted for any school sports or extra-curricular activities within the impacted areas. Details on a rapid testing program rolling out next week in all schools are available below.
- Businesses, entertainment centres and events may remain open and can continue to admit people who show proof of full vaccination and a government-issued ID. Children under 12 accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult will also be admitted.
Businesses who require proof of full vaccination to enter may continue to operate, said Russell.
The entire province of New Brunswick, from Friday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. to Monday, Oct. 11 at 11:59 p.m., even those not living in the circuit breaker regions, must stay within their single-family bubbles, and not attend indoor or outdoor group gatherings, to limit the spread of the virus and limit hospitalizations.
Currently, there are 50 people in hospital, and 23 are in an ICU.
People can still attend events, enter businesses, and entertainment venues if they provide proof of vaccination on entering. This includes showing the proof of vaccination and a government I.D.
“This step is required to protect our health-care system,” said Higgs.
“Social gatherings of unvaccinated New Brunswickers is driving our current situation.
“Our health care system is feeling the strain, and too many eligible New Brunswickers are still choosing not to get fully vaccinated.”
Higgs said while he did not want to make such an announcement, “it is necessary”.
He encouraged all those who remain unvaccinated to make an appointment as soon as possible, particularly those in the under 40 age category. “This is especially concerning in Zones 3, 4, and 5,” said Higgs. “Where the percentage vaccinated in this age groups dips as low as 57 per cent.”
Also beginning this week, residents in long-term care facilities will be getting a booster shot of the vaccine to increase protection, and schools will be receiving rapid test kits to assist with keeping kids in the school.
For the breakdown of cases by region, and for all other COVID-19 data in the province, go to www.gnb.ca/coronavirus, and watch our website for regular updates.