New Brunswick

Province attempts to put a finer point on rules, 'strengthen' border restrictions

With only one new case in the last 17 days, the real danger of a second wave of COVID-19 lies beyond the province’s borders.

Provincial officials are meeting to clarify rules around interprovincial travel, Dr. Jennifer Russell says

Vehicles entering New Brunswick at the Quebec border in Campbellton lined up earlier this year as an officer asked all motorists a series of questions to screen for COVID-19. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

With only one new case in the last 17 days, the real danger of a second wave of COVID-19 lies beyond the province's borders.

Nova Scotia has around 330 active cases, Maine around 480 and Quebec more than 25,000. New Brunswick is also still receiving flights from Montreal and Toronto.

The state of emergency declaration bans all "non-essential" travel such as tourism and social visits.

But beyond the emergency declaration's broad strokes, the province still hasn't clarified exactly who's allowed in, who will be turned away and how it intends to make sure people aren't skirting the rules.

"We've had several meetings in the last week about how we can tighten things up, how we can make things very clear and definitive to make sure that our borders are not as porous as they are right now," Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, says the province is considering ways to clarify and entrench the rules about border travel. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

She said whether it's air or land travel, "we're having discussions this week on how to tighten things up even more."

Russell said the Department of Public Safety has collected data on what kind of travel has been accepted and what hasn't, but that data was not available to media Tuesday. 

Russell said there has been "very little" travel allowed into the province. 

The state of emergency says essential travel includes:

  • People who work or need medical treatment in New Brunswick. 
  • Commercial vehicle drivers.
  • Residents of Campobello Island entering to access essential goods or services. 
  • Travel to allow children to share their time between parents.New Brunswick residents who have been out of province temporarily.
  • Quebec residents who need essential services like prescription medication or groceries that are not available in Quebec, or in Listuguj or Pointe-à-la-Croix.

"If the reason you're traveling falls outside of that, that's what we're trying to nail down a bit more firmly," Russell said.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Monday COVID-19 spread by travel is where "our biggest concerns might be."

Premier Blaine Higgs said New Brunswick will focus on patrolling its borders because that is where the COVID-19 risk is most likely to be found. 1:04

He said he asked for a detailed breakdown of the reasons travellers are giving for coming across the borders. 

"That information is being prepared so we'll be able to make the right judgments on who needs to come in or through New Brunswick and who doesn't," he said.

"We will be strengthening control around our borders as necessary to minimize the risk for citizens of this province."

Spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said peace officers are taking information from everyone entering the province and following up with those told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Officers at checkpoints

Provincial peace officers are stationed at each of the seven interprovincial land entry points in the province, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said provincial spokesperson Coreen Enos.

Entry points to Quebec are in Lac Baker, Edmundston, Restigouche River crossing near Matapedia, Que., and by the J.C. Van Horne Bridge at Campbellton. Entry points to Nova Scotia are in Aulac-Tantramar and Tidnish Bridge. The Prince Edward Island entry point is by Confederation Bridge.

The province also began stationing officers at the Moncton and Fredericton airports on April 25 when there are incoming flight.

Russell said these officers will ask people questions about the purpose of their travel and whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms. She said the officers have the power to turn people away if they deem their travel non–essential. 

It's not clear if they measure travellers' temperatures.

On Monday, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province is looking at ways to strengthen the provincial borders. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The emergency declaration doesn't specifically address people who might have a family emergency, people who are driving through the province, or people who have property in New Brunswick.

The declaration also doesn't outline how the province will keep track of people, if at all, to make sure their travel really is essential.

In an email, provincial spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said people driving through the province will be allowed through.

What people are expected to do once they've arrived

A memo posted on the province's website says people coming from other provinces and internationally must self-isolate for 14 days. This means they can't go grocery shopping or even interact with members of the same household.

Russell said if the traveller is sharing a house with other people, they must stay in a separate room, and use a separate bathroom if possible, and avoid any contact for that duration.

"It's really better if they don't share or they don't stay in the same room with you. It's better if they have their own bathroom. It's better if you make sure that everything is disinfected," she said.

Travellers are required by law to self isolate after arriving, and people could be charged or fined if they break that rule.

Some people are exempted from self-isolating. Those workers include:

  • Healthy workers in the trade and transportation sector, such as truck drivers and crew on any plane, train or marine vessel crossing the border.
  • Healthy Canadian Coast Guard employees returning to New Brunswick from another province.
  • Healthy people who must cross the border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.
  • New Brunswick residents who cross the provincial border daily to attend work. 
  • Workers who need to travel to work in a neighbouring province, who should travel directly to their place of employment and then back to their home in New Brunswick.

Russell said that until a vaccine is found, the province will be performing a careful "dance."

That will include consistently testing people with mild symptoms and controlling the flow of travellers to avoid a resurgence of cases. 

"You need to continue with the hand hygiene, you need to continue with wearing community facial masks, you need to continue the physical distancing," she said.
 

About the Author

Hadeel Ibrahim is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

With files from Jacques Poitras

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now