New Brunswick

What we know about the worse-than-red phase the N.B. premier warns about

Premier Blaine Higgs says if case counts continue to rise the province could enter a new, stricter, phase of recovery as early as next week. A phase officials have been calling "lockdown."

New 'lockdown' phase could follow red if case counts continue to rise

Some non-essential retail businesses can remain open under current red-phase rules but this might change by end of the week, Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Premier Blaine Higgs says if New Brunswick doesn't turn itself around and COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise, the province could enter a new, stricter phase of recovery as early as the end of this week.

This is the phase officials have been calling "lockdown," and it will be more restrictive than the red phase that three more health zones enter at midnight Tuesday night. 

Until recently, red was the most severe phase in the colour scheme of recovery, although today's red is different from last year's.

Higgs said Tuesday that the province has not yet defined "lockdown" in detail.

If we don't see immediate results over these coming days, then certainly we won't be afraid to make the next step by the end of the week if necessary.- Blaine Higgs, premier

But if New Brunswick goes into that phase, people should expect it to be like the lockdown that began last March 19, when all non-essential businesses were closed, schools were shut down and non-essential workers had to stay home.

Three health zones — the Moncton (Zone 1) Saint John (Zone 2) Fredericton (Zone 3) regions — are to join the Edmundston (Zone 4) region in the red phase at midnight.

Hairdressers, gyms and entertainment centres must close, and restaurants have to stop in-house service, but schools and non-essential retail stores remain open.

The decision to put more than half the province into red came after the province saw double-digit case increases 16 days in a row, and a 13th person died of the disease.

Higgs said the province could move to a stricter lockdown if cases continue to rise and more people end up in hospital with COVID-19.

People who lived through the lockdown of March and April 2020 would find this stricter phase more familiar than the current red phase, he said.

"You can just go back to last spring, and you can go back to when we didn't know where this was going to go, and we shut down early and we shut down hard," he said.

Higgs said other provinces have also gone into similar lockdowns. Ontario is under a mandatory stay-at-home order, and Quebec has also shutdown

"We're not going to wait till it's too late," Higgs said. "We are defining what a lockdown looks like this week. And if we don't see immediate results over these coming days, then certainly we won't be afraid to make the next step by the end of the week if necessary."

There are currently 316 active cases in the province. This graphic does not reflect a person with COVID-19 whose death was not related to the disease. (CBC News)

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, suggested officials could know Thursday if a lockdown is necessary.

Russell said more people are coming forward to get tested in the Edmundston region, which went into the red phase on Monday, even if they have mild symptoms.

She said she's hoping other people will come forward to get tested in the three zones going into red Wednesday. She said this will help keep the province out of lockdown.

"We know that in order to get the outbreak under control right now and prevent further transmission that we do have to have everybody's co-operation," she said.

Changing targets, changing phases

New Brunswick announced colour-coded phases in April 2020. They've been minimally revised since then, but in the last three months officials have changed orange and red considerably. The former made more strict, the latter less strict.

Under old orange, people were able to have a two-household bubble where there was no need for masks or physical distancing. The new orange says people must keep to one household and can add only one person, who lives alone. 

Old red was equivalent to a shutdown.

Being outside for a non-essential reason was not recommended, schools were closed and people were mandated to stay home by law.

The red imposed on health Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4, is keeping schools and non-essential retail stores open. 

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