New Brunswick orders 'circuit breaker' restrictions in northwest after COVID outbreak

·2 min read

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is imposing "circuit-breaker" restrictions in the northwest of the province for at least four days to contain a COVID-19 outbreak.

The city of Edmundston and the upper Madawaska region, which border Quebec and Maine, were scheduled to move to the province's "red" pandemic-alert level at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said the rest of the province remains at the lower "yellow" level.

"Just when it seemed like things were getting better … the game has changed again and the game-changer is really the variant," Russell said about the more contagious mutation first identified in the United Kingdom. "It's more easily transmissible and the virus is spreading quickly. It is difficult to keep cases contained."

Officials reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, including 24 in the Edmundston region.

Russell said there are 58 active reported cases in the Edmundston area and 62 per cent of those cases are either confirmed or suspected to involve the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7.

"The number of COVID-19 cases in the Edmundston area has doubled and doubled again in less than two weeks," Russell said. "We are investigating three unlinked chains of transmission in that area and now we have confirmed cases of community spread."

The government said in a news release Thursday the so-called "red-level circuit-breaker" measures in the region will last at least four days.

Red-level restrictions include a travel ban in and out of the affected area and a limit on gatherings to members of a household. As well, in-person dining at restaurants is prohibited and all sports and recreation facilities are closed.

"I am appealing directly to the people of the Edmundston area to reduce your circle of contacts to the lowest number possible," Russell said.

A mass testing clinic for people with no symptoms of COVID-19 opened Thursday and will continue Friday.

Officials also reported five new cases Thursday in the Saint John area and one new case in the Bathurst region. New Brunswick has 89 active reported cases of COVID-19 and three patients in hospital with the disease.

"This virus is not done with us yet," Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Thursday. "It is important that we continue to work together as we deal with whatever challenges arise."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press