Family and friends who have been kept apart by COVID-19 restrictions in New Brunswick will be able to gather as of midnight tonight as Phase 1 of the province's path to green officially begins.
A total of 75.1 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have now received a first dose of a COVID vaccine. That's just above the threshold the province set to slowly begin loosening restrictions and opening up the borders — a target it had hoped to reach June 7.
Up until now, people have been limited to their household members and a "steady 15" of contacts. But Phase 1 of the path to green allows contact with all family and friends in areas at the yellow COVID alert level.
Informal indoor gatherings are limited to 20 people, while informal outdoor gatherings require two-metre distancing between groups.
Formal indoor gatherings are limited to 50 per cent of the venue's capacity with an operational plan, while the maximum capacity possible is allowed for formal outdoor gatherings, with distancing and an operational plan.
Masks still have to be worn in public spaces, such as stores and on public transportation.
Starting today, people who travel to New Brunswick from the Cumberland County region of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Avignon and Témiscouata regions of Quebec will not have to isolate or be tested for COVID-19, when they enter the province, but 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 allowed for people from outside these areas. However, they will be required to isolate and take a COVID test between the fifth and seventh day, with negative results, before they can end their isolation.
Cross-border commuters and truckers will no longer be subject to isolation and testing requirements.
Other workers, including rotational workers, people moving to New Brunswick and travellers coming from outside the Cumberland County, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Avignon and Témiscouata, must isolate with negative testing between the fifth and seventh day, unless they're under an existing work isolation plan. If they can't isolate separately, their entire household must isolate with them.
Organized sporting activities will be allowed, with games and competitions restricted to players and teams based in Cumberland County, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Avignon and Témiscouata.
Faith venues can continue to operate at up to 50 per cent of venue capacity and singing is now allowed, as long as the choir is four metres away from the congregation.
There are no changes for restaurants or other businesses, schools, daycares or camps.
Hospitalizations must remain manageable and all regions must remain at the yellow COVID alert level for Phase 1 to continue.
Phase 2 is scheduled to begin July 1 if at least 20 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 65 or over have received their second dose. As of Tuesday afternoon, 18 per cent had been vaccinated, said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.