1 new case of COVID-19 in N.L. as province prepares for 1st phase of reopening
With 1 new recovery, active caseload stays steady at 5
Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the province looks ahead to reopening its borders to non-essential travel on Thursday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the new case is a woman between 20 and 39 years old in the Eastern Health region, related to travel within Canada.
There has also been a new recovery, Fitzgerald said, leaving the province's active caseload at five. The recovery was the lone case in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region. There is now nobody in hospital due to the virus, Fitzgerald said.
To date, 160,076 people have been tested, including 377 since Tuesday's update.
On Thursday the province will reopen its borders to non-essential travel, the first time since sweeping restrictions were placed on travel in May 2020 to help protect residents from the highly contagious coronavirus. Effective 12:01 a.m. non-essential travel will be permitted.
"We still have to be careful. We're trying to be hopeful, we're trying to be optimistic about what's going to happen over the summer and hope that we're going to be able to enjoy a good summer as more and more people become vaccinated," said Fitzgerald.
"I think we still have to bear in mind masking, physical distancing, keeping our contacts low, keeping track of things, just trying as much as possible to remember those public health measures."
A new travel form is now available online, Fitzgerald noted, and must be filled out by anyone coming to the province within three days before their travel. Anyone who is partially vaccinated must upload a negative pre-arrival COVID-19 test.
Fitzgerald said border officials will not be able to help travellers fill out the form. Anyone who does not complete the form before arrival will have to self-isolate until they're contacted by a public health official to verify vaccination and pre-arrival COVID-19 test results. Fitzgerald said the 811 line will also not be able to help people complete the form.
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Eastern Health has partnered with the St. John's International Airport Authority to provide testing services at the airport, starting Thursday. The new temporary drive-thru testing clinic, adjacent to the main terminal, is for travellers who require a COVID-19 test upon arrival.
The clinic will operate by appointment only, according to an Eastern Health media release, from 12 p.m. to 4 a.m., seven days a week. Travellers must remain in their vehicles during the test, and have to self-isolate until a negative result is received.
Western Health is also setting up testing clinics Deer Lake Regional Airport and the Marine Atlantic terminal in Port aux Basques. Testing at these clinics is also by appointment only.
Fitzgerald said the appointment only format is to allow the regional health authorities to plan ahead and have staffing available. She said there are contingency plans in place in the event of a cancelled or delayed flight.
Premier Andrew Furey said travellers can avail to pre-departure testing for convenience.
Along with changes to travel restrictions, provincial public health restrictions will also be eased as of Thursday.
Formal gatherings outdoors, organized by a business or organization, can have 250 people in attendance, with physical distancing. For indoor gatherings organized by the same groups, 200 people, or 75 per cent of the venue's capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed with physical distancing.
Funeral homes can now permit up to 25 people for visitations. Dancing is permitted at weddings but still prohibited at bars and lounges.
For informal gatherings, 50 people are permitted outdoors, but indoor gatherings are still capped at 20.
There are no capacity restrictions for retail stores as long as physical distancing can be maintained. Restaurants and lounges can open at 75 per cent capacity with physical distancing.
The mask-wearing order is still in place, Fitzgerald said, including for people who are fully vaccinated. If the province reaches vaccine targets a review on masking will take place in Step 3, of the reopening phase, tentatively scheduled to start Sept. 15.
As of Monday, 79 per cent of the eligible population had received at least one dose of vaccine, while 17 per cent had received two doses.
Furey said the province is expected to reach 80 per cent of the eligible population with one dose by the end of the day, and potentially 20 per cent with two doses.
"These are incredible numbers and ones we should all be proud of. You should all be proud at home," he said.
Health Minister John Haggie said Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination supplies were reduced in the shipments to the province last week and this week with reasons that were not clear. He said those doses on hand will be allocated for people between 12 and 17 years old who can only receive that shot.
He said the vast majority of doses being shipped to the province over the next three weeks will be Moderna.