COVID-19 cluster in central Newfoundland leads to stricter health orders

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador have reported a cluster of 14 confirmed and presumed COVID-19 cases in the province's central region.

The government moved swiftly Friday to impose stricter health orders in an area from Lewisporte, N.L., to Summerford, N.L., on the east side of Notre Dame Bay.

The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, told a news conference the source of these cases is under investigation, adding there were seven confirmed cases, seven presumptive cases and one probable case.

She said the affected area would be elevated to Alert Level 4 — the province's second-highest alert level — as of midnight Friday night. The rest of the province remains at Level 2.

"It's essential to keep your contacts low," Fitzgerald said, adding that testing will be ramped up in the Lewisporte area.

"In all likelihood it will be a variant. We are trying to reduce some of the onward transmission."

She said the decision to raise the alert level was partly because the long weekend will mean more people will be travelling over the next three days.

Meanwhile, the province reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, which raised the number of active cases to 70. There was one case in the eastern region and two in the western region, in addition to the seven new cases in the central zone.

Newfoundland and Labrador has reported 1,226 cases since the pandemic started. Six people have died from virus-related illnesses and four people remain in hospital.

Residents on the east side of Notre Dame Bay are being advised to stay at home, socialize only with their family bubble and limit their travel to essential trips for groceries and medications.

Bars will be closed, restaurants will be limited to takeout dining, and retail stores can open at 50 per cent capacity. All personal service establishments can open under certain guidelines.

All gatherings for funerals, burials, weddings and religious and cultural ceremonies must be limited to no more than 10 people, and all public visitations and wakes have been banned.

Team sports have been suspended, performance venues will be closed, and many businesses must be closed, including all fitness facilities, swimming pools, courts, arenas and dance studios.

Visitor restrictions will be imposed for acute care and long-term care facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press