New Brunswick releases plan to reopen province

Path to Green level announced
Path to Green level announced(Government of New Brunswick)
Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 11:11 AM EDT
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(CBC New Brunswick) New Brunswick unveiled its “path to green” and announced nine new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said all restrictions could be lifted by Aug. 2, New Brunswick Day, if 75 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and over have been fully vaccinated by then and COVID-related hospitalizations remain manageable.

“Green is coming,” she said, calling it “exciting.”

“I’m sure some questioned whether this day would ever arrive.”

The first phase of the three-phase plan will begin June 7 if at least 75 per cent of the eligible population has received their first dose of a COVID vaccine and all zones are at the yellow COVID alert level, said Shephard.

If those conditions are met, a number of changes will come into effect, including no mandatory isolation or testing for those travelling within Atlantic Canada and the border Quebec regions of Avignon and Témiscouata, with the exception of Nova Scotia. Travel registration will still be required.

Compassionate travel, such as travel related to end of life, funerals, and providing or receiving care, including child care not otherwise available, will be permitted for individuals from outside Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Avignon, and Témiscouata, but they will be required to isolate and take a COVID-19 test between days five and seven, with negative results, before they can discontinue isolation.

Cross-border commuters and truckers will no longer be subject to testing and isolation requirements.

Other workers, including rotational workers, travelling from outside Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Avignon and Témiscouata, and those moving to New Brunswick and New Brunswickers who travel outside of the area, with isolation and negative testing between days five and seven, unless that person is under an existing work isolation plan. Households will be required to isolate unless the individual isolates separately.

In addition, the steady 15 will be eliminated. New Brunswickers will be allowed contact with all family and friends in yellow alert levels.

Indoor informal gatherings will be limited to 20 people, while indoor formal gatherings can be up to 50 per cent capacity with an operational plan. Outdoor gatherings are permitted with two metres of distancing.

Organized sporting activities will be permitted, with games and competitions restricted to players and teams based in Atlantic Canada, Avignon and Témiscouata.

Faith gatherings will also be permitted with an operational plan of up to 50 per cent venue capacity and the choir four metres away from the congregation.

Phase 2 will begin July 1 if at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over have received their second dose, Shephard said.

Registration for travel within Atlantic Canada, Avignon and Témiscouata will no longer be required, and Nova Scotia will be included in the bubble.

Travellers from across Canada with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed into the province with no isolation required. The same will apply to travellers from Maine, pending changes to the federal regulations, Shephard said.

Those who have not been vaccinated will also be permitted to enter the province, but will be required to isolate and undergo COVID testing between days five to seven. They will be released from isolation with a negative test.

International travellers with two doses will not be required to isolate, pending changes to federal regulations, while those with one dose or no vaccination will be subject to 14-day isolation, with a test on day 10.

Asked how the province will verify if a traveller has been vaccinated, Shepard told CBC News: “Since we’re still using the travel registration [for travel outside of the Atlantic bubble, Avignon or Témiscouata], I’m going to assume … you know, it may be an honour system. But to be honest, we haven’t quite certified that yet.”

The province’s designated isolation hotels program will no longer be required.

Businesses, such as restaurants, gyms and salons, will be allowed to operate at full capacity if they maintain a contact list of patrons, she said. Masks will still be required when it’s not possible to maintain a distance of two metres, if patrons are not eating or drinking.

Additional health and safety guidelines for early learning and child-care facilities will also be “relaxed” with a full return to normal operations anticipated by Aug. 1, said Shephard.

By Aug. 2, the province expects to remove the state of emergency mandatory order, which has been in place since March 2020 and gives the government additional powers.

The full details of New Brunswick’s path to green are available on the government’s website.

“I want to remind everyone that these dates are goals and they are subject to change, based on our vaccination rates and the number of hospitalizations,” said Shephard.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said releasing the plan does not put the province at the finish line of its “pandemic journey.” COVID-19 will continue even after the green phase.

“But it is a message of hope,” she said. “This is about giving everyone the strength to stay on course for a few more weeks.”

Premier Blaine Higgs said he knows the plan must come as a “huge relief” to New Brunswickers.

“We have all known very difficult moments during this pandemic,” he said.

Many people have been separated from loved ones in other parts of the country “for more than 14 long months.”

Businesses have had to alter their operations or, in some cases, close for periods of time.

People whose jobs require them to travel have had to isolate away from their families.

“We have all been required to give up the simple daily activities that we’ve taken for granted, from hugging our loved ones to working in an office,” said Higgs.

Many people have become sick from contracting the coronavirus and 43 people have died in New Brunswick.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on us,” Higgs said.

But “people living in other provinces and around the world look at us with envy when they see how much freedom we have been able to enjoy while still avoiding the full force and the damage of COVID-19 and all that it can create.”

He encouraged New Brunswickers to continue to show the rest of the world what the province can accomplish when everyone works together.

As of Thursday, 403,233 New Brunswickers, or 58.2 per cent of the eligible population, have received at least one dose, according to the province’s COVID dashboard. Of those, only about 37,000, or roughly 5.4 per cent, have had a second dose.

If the province does not reach its vaccination goals, or sees a rise in cases and hospitalizations, it will delay the target dates, Higgs said.

P.E.I. to reopen to Atlantic bubble June 27

Prince Edward Island unveiled its reopening plan, called Moving Forward, on Thursday.

The island plans to welcome visitors from the other Atlantic provinces starting June 27, without requiring any self-isolation period, as long as they provide a self-declaration form that they’ve received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and agree to take a COVID test at their point of entry.

Premier Dennis King said he expects all Atlantic provinces will be “pretty much aligned” around then, and they are all working on “similar dates.” He said the four premiers talked about the issue Wednesday night.

Earlier this month, Higgs said he believed the Atlantic bubble could reopen by July 1.

The Atlantic bubble allows travel within the four Atlantic provinces without the need to self-isolate.

On Thursday, Higgs said no date for a complete reopening of the Atlantic bubble has been set yet because each province will be looking at its own situation.

“But I think what we’re signalling here is that as of June 7th, we’re in a position to resume those discussions in earnest and look at specific dates,” he said. “And I think it’s important that we try to align our dates” to help avoid confusion for travellers.

Higgs said he and King discussed the Atlantic region being ready in late June. “Whether we can do something sooner with P.E.I and Newfoundland, certainly we’re willing to have those discussions,” he said.

P.E.I. reported no new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and three new recoveries, leaving a total of 10 active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed six new cases and has 89 active cases.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, continued its downward trend with 33 new confirmed cases. The province now has 638 active cases.

The four Atlantic premiers had planned to reopen the bubble on May 3, but talks were suspended, given COVID-19 outbreaks in the region, accelerated by emerging variants of concern.

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