New Brunswick is introducing "circuit-breaker" restrictions in COVID hotspots for the next two weeks as the province reels to control its recent case surge. Non-essential travel outside government-mandated areas is not permitted, and residents must limit their contact within their household.
Global News reports the restrictions go into effect Friday at 6 pm and impact Zone 1 (Moncton region) as far north as and including Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, Zone 3 (Fredericton region) in the upper Saint John River valley north of and including Florenceville-Bristol, and all of Zone 4 (Edmundston region).
Schools will remain open, but sports and other extracurricular activities are on hold for children under 12. To further alleviate the high demand for testing, parents will soon be receiving rapid test kits for students who are close contacts of cases within a school.
Businesses and events can also remain open but require proof of vaccination for admittance. A fully vaccinated adult must accompany children under 12 at these venues.
According to Premier Blaine Higgs, the province also informed residents that Thanksgiving gatherings would be limited to single-household contacts for the entire province because the province faces a "serious situation." The announcement applies to indoor and outdoor gatherings from Friday at 6 pm to Monday at 11:59 pm.
New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said these "proportional measures" are needed to keep COVID from "becoming even more entrenched in these communities." With the healthcare system "extremely stretched," the province will focus on reducing hospitalizations over the next several weeks.
The province announced 90 new cases on Tuesday and one death. There are now 782 active cases and 50 people in the hospital, including 23 patients in ICU. Russell noted 82 percent of COVID hospitalizations are from unvaccinated residents.
"As I have said before, we cannot lock down everyone, everywhere, until this virus has been eradicated. We all need to go to work, to attend school, to see friends and family, but we have to do these things as safely as we can," she said.
Higgs added: "I appreciate this is a lot to take in, but it is imperative that we now take decisive action if we are going to get this fourth wave under control as quickly as possible." He said that casual, in-home gatherings are the province's most significant concern.
The premier also unveiled a mandatory vaccination policy for provincial employees, including those working in long-term care and child-care facilities. The policy applies to all government employees in Parts I (civil service), II (education system), III (healthcare system) and IV (Crown corporations).
Employees have until November 19 to be fully vaccinated or will be placed on unpaid leave. Higgs said child-care facilities with staff not fully vaccinated risk losing their licences.