Quebecers could be turned around at N.B. border, as that province bans non-essential travel

Quebecers driving to New Brunswick could be turned away at the provincial border, N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs announced Wednesday, although exceptions will be made for those who need to buy food and other necessities or for medical needs.

Residents near border, including Listuguj Mi'kmaq, may continue to cross border under certain conditions

The RCMP set up a checkpoint in Campbellton, N.B. around 3 p.m. on March 25, after Premier Blaine Higgs announced new travel restrictions for the province. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Quebecers hoping to travel to  Atlantic Canada could be turned away at the New Brunswick border, N.B. Premier Blaine Higgs announced Wednesday — a new headache for people living in border towns who usually cross back and forth between the two provinces to shop and for medical care.

New Brunswick has set up screening checkpoints at its borders to control the spread of COVID-19, Higgs announced Wednesday.

"Unnecessary travel is no longer permitted," said Higgs. He said non-residents would no longer be able to enter the province to socialize or shop.

Exceptions will be made, however, for certain essential services.

The chief of Listuguj, a Mi'kmaq community on the Quebec side of the Baie des Chaleurs, said the band council reached an agreement with the New Brunswick government within hours of the checkpoints going up.

Darcy Gray posted a video to Facebook to reassure Listugujewaj the checkpoints do not mean "a total closure" of the border.

People in the region, including those in Listuguj, regularly cross over the J.C. Van Horne Bridge to get supplies in Campbellton, N.B.

People driving over the J.C. Van Horne bridge, near Listuguj, Que., will have to show identification and disclose the purpose of their trip at a checkpoint. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Darcy said that will still be possible for people who need to "access services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, medical appointments and to get to their place of work."

Residents are being asked to limit travel as much as possible and will be required to show proof of residence and disclose the purpose of their trip.

"Keep in mind that this is a situation that will evolve and change," Gray said.

Those conditions also apply to residents of the village of Pointe-à-la-Croix, which overlooks the bridge.

Mayor Pascal Bujold said people who live in Quebec but work in Campbellton will be permitted to travel.

"We had questions about that, and we got answers," said Bujold, who said he is in favour of reducing travel as much as possible.

In line with other Atlantic provinces

New Brunswick's decision comes as that province confirmed another eight cases of the viral infection, for a total of 26.

Police stationed at the Quebec, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia borders will be authorized to turn people away, Higgs said.

They will collect the identity of travellers allowed to enter the province, as well as their travel plans and contact information, and do follow-ups later, he said. Commercial trucks and people providing essential services will be exempt.

Higgs said travellers can get more information on the border controls by calling 1-800-863-6582.

Similar measures have been adopted in the rest of Eastern Canada.

Prince Edward Island adopted enhanced screening measures, including checkpoints at the Confederation Bridge, Charlottetown airport and Souris ferry terminal, last week.

People travelling through Nova Scotia are also being questioned and told to remain isolated for 14 days, even if they haven't travelled outside Canada.

In contrast, Quebecers are being asked to to self-isolate only if they have been out of the country.

With files from Brianne Fequet, CBC New-Brunswick and Radio-Canada's Isabelle Larose

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