New Brunswick

Empty streets on day 1 of state of emergency

Streets around New Brunswick were more quiet than usual on Friday during day one of the state of emergency in response to COVID-19.

It seems New Brunswickers are following the conditions of the emergency measures

Queen Street in downtown Fredericton was quiet Friday during lunchtime. (Gary Moore/CBC)

It's lunch time on Friday in Fredericton, and the streets that are typically bustling with people looking for a bite to eat, or running mid-day errands, are eerily quiet. 

Much of the province feels a bit like a ghost town.

It's day one of the state of emergency put in place by Premier Blaine Higgs in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Unlike most days at this time, there are plenty of parking spaces in downtown Fredericton. But there's not much point in taking one because there's virtually no place to go. 

"Sorry We're Closed" signs are hanging from business doors, along with letters taped onto the glass explaining it's part of the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A popular restaurant in Fredericton, like many others, is closed because of the state of emergency in New Brunswick. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Some local shops have separate signs encouraging customers to visit their websites to continue to support small business. 

The silence on the empty streets is intermittently broken by people walking, but never in large groups.

Their conversation is louder than normal, because they're walking farther apart, and what would normally be an intimate conversation bounces off the brick buildings and echoes down the street.

With the closure of gyms, there seem to be more people outside running and walking the lonely trails along the city's downtown. 

In this together

The streets of New Brunswick were eerily quiet during the first day of the state of emergency. 0:57

It's a strange time right now.

"This one is a bit different because it does affect everyone across the country and around the world," said Isabelle LeBlanc with the City of Moncton. 

"If I look at downtown here, which is normally bustling with just under 20,000 people in the run of a day, it looks very empty," she said. 

Giant Tiger in Saint John has used its neon billboard that would normally announce a sale on bread and bananas to strike a different chord with its message: "We're all in this together."

Giant Tiger in Saint John, with a message for the city. (Julia Wright/CBC)

That resonates from the south of the province to the north.

"It is an odd feeling, you know, this is unprecedented," said Luc Foulem in Bathurst, who described the Friday noon hour as "eerie." 

"We've got a 4:00 [a.m.] feeling at 12 noon," he said, describing the empty streets. 

It's a sign that people are taking the state of emergency seriously in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

And it's not likely to change soon.

Higgs said Friday that schools were now closed indefinitely, putting an end to any expectation they would reopen on March 30.

He also said the province is certain there will be more cases of the virus, warning against putting too much emphasis on two days without a new case reported.

Higgs said the "next big wave" will arrive soon enough, in the form of travellers returning home.

No one can say yet when things will get back to normal, but New Brunswick's cities and towns will be quiet until then. 

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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