New Brunswick

N.B COVID-19 roundup: Atlantic travel bubble will have to wait until early July, Higgs says

Residents living in Atlantic Canada will have to wait a bit longer before they can travel between provinces in the region, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Friday.

New Brunswick moves into next phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs expects to see a travel bubble between Atlantic provinces by early July. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

Latest

  • N.B. could open to rest of Canada by mid-July
  • Province loosens restrictions in COVID-19 recovery plan
  • Campbellton region remains in orange phase
  • 27 active cases
  • 1 symptom for testing instead of 2
  • What to do if you have a symptom

Residents in Atlantic Canada will have to wait a bit longer before they can travel between provinces in the region, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Friday.

At a news briefing on COVID-19, Higgs said he expects a travel bubble to open between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland in early July. 

"We are monitoring activities across the country," said Higgs, who has been in discussions with all three other Atlantic premiers.

"We feel the first phase for us is obviously Atlantic Canada."

Higgs said there will also be advanced notice before the borders open up, to give businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, a chance to accommodate the changes. But businesses should start planning now for the Atlantic travel bubble.

The province, with the exception of Zone 5, entered into a new phase of recovery on Friday. (CBC News)

The Atlantic premiers have said they want to provide safe and efficient travel in the region without the need to self-isolate for 14 days, which would allow for tourism and family visits.

Higgs said last week that the Atlantic premiers were looking at having "at least a three-way bubble," with the goal of allowing access between provinces "sometime this summer."

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said the Atlantic provinces are fine tuning the details, including what reopening will look like and what measures will be put back in place if there is an outbreak in one province.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, announced no new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Friday. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil are interested in a July start for a regional bubble. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball had been less enthusiastic, but on Friday was more supportive, saying officials are just working out the details.

"We've come a long way in Newfoundland and Labrador," Ball told reporters. "I think people seemingly now are ready to move about more."

Province could open to rest of Canada by mid-July

Premier Blaine Higgs said the province could open to the rest of Canada by mid-July, as long as New Brunswick can continue to manage the spread of COVID-19.

He said this step is important to help New Brunswick's economy and get airports back up and running. 

"At the end of the day we want to get back to being a nation," Higgs said. "We want to get back to our friends, our relatives.

Premier Blaine Higgs announced New Brunswick’s next steps in the COVID-19 recovery plan. 3:20

Dr. Jennifer Russsell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said she and the other chief medical officers from across Canada have been monitoring data related to COVID-19 cases across the country.

She said this will help determine the reopening of the province to the rest of Canada.

N.B. loosens restrictions in new phase of recovery

After two days without any new cases of COVID-19, New Brunswick will move into the next phase of its recovery plan starting today, with the exception of the Campbellton region.

Under the new phase:

  • Visits at long-term care homes are allowed. Premier Blaine Higgs said not every home will be in a position to allow visits immediately. Only one visitor will be allowed at one time. And the name of the visitor must be distributed in advance. Visitors are also required to wear masks.
  • Overnight camps are allowed to reopen.
  • Residents who work outside the province will no longer need to self-isolate when coming from outside New Brunswick, but are encouraged to self-monitor. 
  • Canadian residents can visit family members in New Brunswick if they self-isolate for 14 days, or for the duration of their visit if it is shorter than 14 days.
  • Canadian residents owning property in New Brunswick are allowed into the province if they self-isolate for 14 days.
  • All organized sports are allowed with appropriate distancing and sanitizing.
  • There is no longer a cap on the number of people gathering in controlled venues, which previously had a limit of 50 people. Participants must be able to physically distance themselves from others. (This does not include close family or friends.) This applies to churches, swimming pools, saunas, waterparks, rinks, indoor recreational facilities and organized sports.

This next phase also includes the gradual reopening of more businesses and activities. Businesses that choose to reopen during this phase must prepare an operational plan respecting Public Health guidelines that can be provided to officials, if requested.

Higgs said venues with indoor events with controlled entry or controlled seating are required to maintain records of users' contact information to allow Public Health to conduct targeted followup should there be a COVID-19 exposure at the facility.

Campbellton region remains in orange phase

The Campbellton region, the site of an outbreak provincial officials have linked to a medical professional who travelled to Quebec and didn't self-isolate, remains at the stricter orange level.

Only two-household bubbles are permitted under the orange level.

In addition, non-regulated health professionals and businesses, such as acupuncturists and naturopaths, and personal services businesses, such as hair stylists and spas, can't operate.

Since March 25, travellers to this province have had to stop at checkpoints like this one on Route 120 between New Brunswick and Quebec. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

As long as there isn't an increase in COVID-19, the Campbellton region will be allowed to move into the yellow phase by next Friday. 

This means all remaining businesses can open with appropriate distancing and sanitizing, and operational plans respecting Public Health guidelines. This includes casinos, amusement parks.

Earlier this week, Public Health said it would no longer advise against non-essential travel to and from the Campbellton region.

"No one should be discriminated against for living in a community where COVID-19 is active," said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health. 

On Friday, Russell also reminded businesses in other regions that they don't need to ask whether a customer has been in the Campbellton region.

Some businesses have barred entry to people who have been near Campbellton, and Russell said this is wrong.

A COVID-19 outbreak could happen in anyone's community, she said.

"Sometimes customers are turned away because of where they live and that's not OK," she said.

However, hospitals will screen patients arriving from an outbreak area and isolate them from other patients.

27 active cases 

There are currently 27 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick. 

New Brunswick has seen a total of 164 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of those, 135 people have recovered from the respiratory illness, including 14 from the Campbellton region. 

Two patients are hospitalized with one in an intensive care unit. Two residents at the Manoir de la Vallée long-term care home in Atholville have died.

As of Friday, 39,806 tests have been conducted.

1 symptom for testing instead of 2

Public Health now says a person needs only one symptom to qualify for testing for COVID-19. Lately, two symptoms have been required.

"In order to really be confident in our results we are lowering the number of required symptoms to one, to make sure we're not missing anybody," said Dr. Jennifer Russell. "We want to confirm there is an absence of community spread." 

New Brunswick 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.

What to do if you have a symptom

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

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.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon

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