New Brunswick

As New Brunswick enters new recovery phase, here's what you need to know

New Brunswick has entered the next COVID-19 recovery phase, triggering a new round of loosened restrictions and reopening a large swathe of the economy, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Friday.

Premier Blaine Higgs announces start of new phase that will open restaurants, daycares

Premier Blaine Higgs announced the launch of the next phase in New Brunswick's COVID-19 recovery plan. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

New Brunswick has entered the next COVID-19 recovery phase, triggering a new round of loosened restrictions and reopening a large swathe of the economy, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Friday.

Under the new phase — the orange one, for those at home studying government graphics — daycares will reopen, hospitals will ramp up non-emergency health services and thousands of non-essential businesses will be able to welcome back customers.

Now, outdoor gatherings of 10 or fewer people outside the two-household bubble will be permitted.

Public Health, however, continues to emphasize the importance of physical distancing, handwashing and proper cleaning to reduce the spread of the virus in a province that's managed to flatten the curve. 

Here's what you need to know:

What's allowed to re-open?

Here's a quick list, and check below for further details. Each facility must follow Public Health guidelines, such as physical distancing.

  • Restaurants
  • Retail facilities, including malls
  • In-person programs at post-secondary institutions, though virtual education is still preferred
  • Cultural venues, including museums, galleries and libraries
  • Offices
  • Campgrounds and other outfitters, like zoos and outfitters
  • Regulated daycares can reopen May 19
  • Non-regulated daycares and daycamps can open immediately, if proper controls are in place
  • All-terrain vehicle trails 

When does the phase start?

Effective immediately. However, government officials say they do not expect every business to open the following day. It could take time, days or weeks, for employers to line up staff, gather inventory and adhere to Public Health guidelines.

What about my bubble?

The two-household bubble rule remains in place for the duration of this phase.

What's the deal with public gatherings?

New Brunswickers can now gather outdoors with no more than 10 people outside of their two-household bubble in a physically distant manner. 

Let's use the example of gathering around a firepit at a house. You can enjoy the fire with as many as nine other people, but everyone should stay two-metres apart and you can't bring the party inside.

Asked about people possibly taking advantage of the expanded gatherings and failing to comply, Premier Blaine Higgs implored New Brunswickers to make a "personal commitment."

"This isn't about trying not to get a speeding ticket or get around the law," Higgs said. "It's about trying to protect your parents and your grandparents and your friends and relatives across the province."

But aren't some indoor gatherings permitted?

Yes. Indoor public gatherings of 10 or fewer are allowed for certain celebrations or ceremonies, such as religious services, funerals and weddings.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the distinction between outdoor and indoor gatherings is that it's easier to maintain two metres of distance outside. 

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, speaks to reporters Friday. (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

"There are more chances [individuals] will touch surfaces, use the bathroom, touch things, and all of that will increase the risk level indoors," Russell said.

Do I have to wear a mask?

A mask is required in public when one cannot maintain a distance of two metres. There are exceptions for children two years and under as well as individuals who have trouble breathing or cannot remove their masks without assistance. Masks should not be shared.

Workplaces can require the public to wear a mask to gain entry.

What does a business need to reopen?

Before reopening, workplaces must develop an operational plan for how daily operations will be handled to meet Public Health measures. Those include physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, screening for symptoms, cleaning and disinfecting practices, signage, facial coverings and enforcement.

The plan must be written, implemented and on hand for review at all times.

On Friday, the province released a guide for businesses seeking advice on forming a plan. WorkSafeNB offered something similar that included a template.

I can't find sector-specific information for my business. What should I do?

Russel said documents developed by Public Health and WorkSafeNB to assist businesses were intentionally broad so they would apply to every workplace.

However, businesses with specific questions can contact Opportunities New Brunswick's Business Navigators at nav@navnb.ca or calling 1-833-799-7966.

Who is monitoring workplaces for compliance?

A workplace operational plan does not need to be submitted to Public Health, but workplaces must ensure all employees read such plans and they're to be on hand in the event of an inspection.

Inspectors from Public Health, WorkSafeNB and the Department of Public Safety will be conducting unannounced or pre-scheduled visits to workplaces.

If a business is found without an operational plan, it could be closed until that directive is met. If the plan is found to be insufficient, public officials will work with the business to bring them in line.

What if a customer chooses not to comply with the measures?

Like any other occasion in which a business had to deal with an unruly customer, businesses can contact the authorities. If an individual is purposely putting others at risk, they could face consequences from Public Safety or the police.

What's happening in restaurants?

Restaurants are not mandated to cap seating at 50 per cent. Instead, they are obliged to maintain physical distancing measures — among other controls — which will affect a restaurant's capacity.

Asked why restaurants are able to have more than 10 patrons inside a building, Russell said inspectors can go check to see if proper controls and distancing are in place — something that won't be conducted at private residences.

What health services are now being offered?

Non-emergency surgeries, diagnostic procedures and allied-health professionals will be permitted to resume. However, the level of non-emergency or elective surgeries will not return to normal. That will increase with each phase.

Regulated health professionals, like dentists, physiotherapists, optometrists and massage therapists, will be allowed to resume service. Non-regulated professionals, those without a college or regulatory association, are not.

Are we done with the stricter emergency measures?

Hopefully, but the provincial government has said three unlinked community outbreaks in a six-day period will trigger restrictions. However, a "significant acceleration of disease curve" or new information related to the virus could also bring out new controls.

"At any time, restrictions that have been lifted may quickly be reinstated to protect public health," the province's recovery guide states. "Restrictions may be put in place based on provincial, regional or local circumstances such as unlinked community outbreaks or cases that cannot be traced."

When is the next phase?

The next phase — the yellow one — could begin in two to four weeks, if there hasn't been a new wave of cases.

What happens then?

The list is subject to change, but the yellow phase will allow:

  • Expansion of bubble to friends and family
  • Gatherings of 50 or fewer
  • More elective surgeries and non-emergency health care
  • Personal service businesses, like barbers, salons
  • Non-regulated health professionals and businesses
  • Gyms as well as yoga and dance studios
  • Swimming pools, saunas and waterparks
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Pool halls and bowling alleys

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