FREDERICTON — New Brunswick civil servants have until Sept. 13 to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be forced to wear masks and undergo regular testing, according to an internal government memo obtained by The Canadian Press.
The vaccine mandate was announced last week by Premier Blaine Higgs but details were only distributed internally to staff on Thursday.
Unvaccinated government workers will have to wear masks unless they are alone in their personal workspaces, and they will have to complete three rapid tests for COVID-19 each week and the more invasive PCR test once a month.
Staff who refuse to comply with the mask and testing order could be fired, and new employees will have 45 days to provide proof of full vaccination or they will be terminated.
Employees who provide a certificate of medical exemption to the vaccines will not be required to wear masks but will need to follow the testing requirements.
The memo says in the event of an outbreak in the workplace, testing requirements may be temporarily modified based on public health guidance.
Steve Drost, president of CUPE New Brunswick, which represents more than 28,000 public employees in the province, says the union won't politicize the vaccination policy by taking a position on it but is encouraging members to get vaccinated.
"We just say anybody and everybody that can get vaccinated should get vaccinated," Drost told reporters Friday in Fredericton.
Drost said he doesn't have a concern with the policy's requirement for masks and testing for people who are not vaccinated.
"I think we have to take every step possible to try and get ahead of this pandemic, and whatever health and safety requirements that public health requires, we have an obligation to follow those," he said.
Meanwhile, health officials reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and said 94 per cent of them involved people who weren't fully vaccinated.
Eleven new cases were in the Moncton region, while there were three new infections in the Edmundston area and one each in the Fredericton and Saint John regions.
New Brunswick has 160 active reported cases of COVID-19 and three people in hospital with the disease.
About 74.5 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated and 84.1 per cent have received at least one dose.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2021.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press