New Brunswick

Quebec area booted from N.B. travel bubble over COVID-19 case spike

Témiscouata Municipal Regional County in Quebec will no longer be in the extended travel bubble after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the New Brunswick government announced Thursday afternoon.

Non-essential travellers from Témiscouata county must now self-isolate for 14 days when entering N.B.

A Quebec border checkpoint on Route 120 outside of Edmundston pictured in June before travel restrictions were eased for residents of Témiscouata county. The restrictions were reinstated Thursday after a spike in COVID-19 cases. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Témiscouata Municipal Regional County in Quebec will no longer be in the extended travel bubble after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the New Brunswick government announced Thursday afternoon.

Travel restrictions were eased Aug. 1 for Témiscouata and Avignon Municipal Regional County, two Quebec regions bordering northern New Brunswick, allowing visitors to cross the border for pre-registered day trips without having to self-isolate.

While Avignon's status remains unchanged, Témiscouata residents will be barred from non-essential travel effective immediately. Public Health made the announcement in a news release.

"With the rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, we must be prudent and keep doing our part to keep New Brunswick safe and slow the spread of COVID-19," Premier Blaine Higgs said in the release.

"This is a cabinet and COVID-19 all-party cabinet committee decision that took into consideration public health advice including epidemiology reports, rising cases and recent change in alerts levels in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec."

September surge

Since Sept. 6, there have been 144 confirmed cases in the region, which contains Témiscouata, nearly two-thirds of the 222 total cases in the region since the start of the pandemic. There have been 63 new cases reported between Sunday and Wednesday.

The September surge led the Quebec government to knock the region back a phase in its recovery plan on Tuesday.

Residents of Témiscouata, which borders northwestern New Brunswick near Edmundston, will still be permitted to cross the border for essential matters such as medical appointments, approved work and shared child custody, the New Brunswick government said.

Visitors who are not exempt are again required to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the province. 

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard said residents of his community have been watching cases mount across the border and sharing their concerns with him. He said the announcement didn't come as a surprise.

"It's unfortunate but at the same time we do understand there's a reason for that, and hopefully people will start to get more serious about the pandemic and just do the right thing," he told CBC News on Thursday afternoon.

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard says residents of his community were keeping an eye on a spike of COVID-19 cases across the border in the Bas-Saint-Laurent health region of Quebec. (City of Edmundston )

Simard said there will be an economic impact on the community, which serves as an important centre for services in the broader region, including residents of Témiscouata.

He said the move will also separate some families again.

"My main concern is the families and individuals who were affected back in March and April and May and even June until the bubble was opened," he said. "They wanted to see their relatives on a regular basis face to face. Now we have to go back one step, and hopefully the bubble can start back again."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said in the release that Public Health will be monitoring the situation in Quebec and advising the government on border measures.

 "Everyone must take precautions to limit the spread of the virus and keep the province in the Yellow level of recovery by protecting ourselves and others," she said.

Listuguj chief concerned

Chief Darcy Gray, of the Listuguj First Nation in Quebec, hopes the New Brunswick government isn't so quick to close the border to a second bubble that connects his community with Campbellton. 

"The first step should be to tighten precautions" rather than closing the border, he said on Thursday afternoon. 

New Brunswick eased travel restrictions for residents of Témiscouata and Avignon municipal regional counties on Aug. 1, but Témiscouata was removed from the travel bubble Thursday following an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region. (Government of New Brunswick)

He said the link between the Avignon bubble region, which includes Listuguj, is too important to his community. The bridge is more than just a link between New Brunswick and Quebec. Gray said it also separates families on either side of the border, children from their schools and patients from their doctors. 

"It's essential for students to keep going to school and maintaining the connections with friends," he said.   

If COVID-19 cases creep closer to his community, Gray would prefer to see COVID-19 protocols tightened before the border is closed. He said masks could be made mandatory, unnecessary travel could be restricted and limits could be put on the number of people per household that can go into grocery stores, for example.

No new cases

The New Brunswick government is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 and one new recovery in the province on Wednesday.

Two cases remain in the province's count, including one in the Moncton health region and a resident from the Edmundston region who tested positive in Quebec and is self-isolating there.

There have been 194 confirmed cases in New Brunswick, 190 recoveries and two deaths in the province since the start of the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, 510 tests were conducted, raising the overall total to 68,050. 

Online test request available

If you think you've been exposed to the coronavirus you can now make an online request to be tested for COVID-19.

First, you would do the self-assessment on the GNB website, then you'd follow the recommended advice. If the advice is to get tested, the request can be submitted online from the site. 

It can take up to 24 to 48 hours for a test assessment centres to make contact and schedule an appointment. During that time, if you have one symptom, you don't have to self-isolate. If you have two symptoms, you must self-isolate from the time the test is arranged until the time you get your results.

It can take up to five days before a person can test positive after being exposed to COVID-19, Public Health says.

What to do if you have a symptom

People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test on the government website at gnb.ca. 

Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: a fever above 38 C, a new cough or worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.

People with one of those symptoms are asked to:

  • Stay at home.

  • Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor.

  • Describe symptoms and travel history.

  • Follow instructions.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated 63 new cases were reported in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region between Monday and Wednesday. In fact, the cases were reported between Sunday and Wednesday.
    Sep 17, 2020 4:38 PM AT

With files from Mia Urquhart

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