6th consecutive day of no new COVID-19 cases in N.L.
Lifting restrictions will be a very slow process, and won't happen all at once
Thursday marked the sixth consecutive day without any new cases of COVID-19 reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The province's total number of cases remains at 256, with 205 people having recovered. The number of active cases in the province has fallen to 48.
"Another day with no new cases is good news. It certainly gives us hope and encouragement that better days of normalcy are coming, even if this means a new way of life for now," said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health.
Watch the full April 23 update:
As of Thursday 6,902 people have been tested, 240 since Wednesday's briefing.
Fitzgerald issued two new public health orders: effective Monday at noon, all travellers arriving in the province will be required to submit a 14-day self-isolation plan upon entering, and effective Friday at noon all travellers must fill out a health declaration form when arriving at any point of entry.
The self-isolation plan form will include questions about where the person will be staying, whether they will be around vulnerable people, and how they will maintain isolation.
"We want people to be able to do the right thing, and we want to be able to support them to do that right thing," Fitzgerald said. "So ideally we would want to have that information prior to them coming to the province."
Fitzgerald said now that the province has seen a period of no new cases for almost a week, the mandatory forms are in place to give public health a clearer picture when it comes to ncoming travellers as government begins planning to ease some of its restrictions.
"We need to be able to find all of those cases so that we can prevent a surge in cases that could overwhelm health-care capacity," she said.
On Thursday, Wabush and Labrador City will not be allowing any travellers into the region, unless they have a letter stating they are an essential worker or on an urgent matter.
Premier Dwight Ball said it's a checkpoint for those communities to gather information on anyone entering the community.
Whether it's legal to turn people around from entering the community, neither Ball nor those communities are sure.
"I guess that will be dependent on who tests the law. But, the fact is I guess what they're doing is reiterating the fact that they just want to see essential travellers coming into their community," Ball said when pressed by reporters in the daily briefing.
Thursday's briefing included Bill Woolridge, who has recovered from COVID-19, which he contracted at some point during his brother-in-law's funeral and wake at Caul's Funeral Home in St. John's in March.
Woolridge tested positive for the virus but his wife didn't — a testament, he said, to the physical distancing measures they followed during his illness.
"We are both well. I am feeling great, and certainly thankful to have made it through that period," he said.
Woolridge said about 25 family members also tested positive as a result of the gathering. Two family friends also tested positive, with one hospitalized for five days.
"It was a worry for sure, but we are happy that they have all recovered. They turned a corner on the virus and now they are all doing well," he said.
Virus 'not going to go away in the short term'
Health Minister John Haggie said Fitzgerald's new orders are the beginning of changes to come in the next weeks and months.
"The virus is now a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. It's with us for a while, and it's not going to go away in the short term," he said.
The health minister acknowledged the challenges people who are working turn-around shifts in other provinces will face upon returning to the province, but is asking for collaboration and co-operation under the new travel orders.
"At the end of the day the beneficiaries will be all of us. Particularly [if] it's done from the point of view of protecting as many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as possible from this virus and from the experience Mr. Woolridge has had," Haggie said.
Planning is underway for other new norms. Haggie said those decisions are not secret; they're just not ready yet and will be announced once decisions are finalized.
He said it will be a slow process — each change made needs to be assessed to make sure they don't cause further problems if the province faces another large outbreak of the virus.
"Even with all that due diligence, unfortunately, we are still likely to see cases over the next six to eight months," he said.
"At the end of the day we have to make decisions on the conditions of significant uncertainty."