Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 17 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday — the same day the government unveiled its plan to reopen the province to travellers within Canada and relax rules related to the virus.
The breakdown of cases is:
One in the Eastern Health region, related to travel.
Four in the Central Health region: three that are close contacts of cases related to the cluster and one related to travel.
12 in the Western Health region: eight that are contacts of known cases and connected to the outbreak, three that are contacts of previous cases but not related to the outbreak, and one case under investigation.
With 17 new recoveries since Tuesday, the active caseload stands at 90. One person is in hospital with the disease.
The outbreak in the Western region is believed to be due to the variant B.1.617.2, which was first detected in India, according to original screening, according to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald at Wednesday's It is also considered more transmissible than both the original strain of COVID and the B.1.1.7 variant.
Full genome sequencing is being done to confirm it's the variant. While it's the same variant at the centre of the cluster in central Newfoundland, Fitzgerald said there is nothing that suggests the clusters are linked.
'I understand that people are scared' about reopening
Fitzgerald said she understands there may be anxiety about parts of it, especially as the announcement comes on a day with 17 new COVID-19 cases, less than a month when the provincial border could reopen to non-essential travel.
Fitzgerald said COVID-19 cases are still going to be a part of regular life, and she noted that many of Wednesday's cases are contacts of previous cases.
She said it shows public health's strategy of trace and test is working.
"I understand that people are scared; change is difficult. We are used to low case counts, being able to control things, living our lives fairly freely. We know that vaccinations can reduce severe disease," she said.
She stressed rules still need to be followed: wear a mask, wash your hands and keep contacts relatively low.
"Just because we can go to large gatherings as time goes on doesn't mean that you need to be doing that all the time or that you should," she added.
Over 60 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador's eligible population has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Health Minister John Haggie said Wednesday the province is on track to reach 82 per cent by July 1.