New Brunswick has identified six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 51.
According to a news release issued by Public Health, two New Brunswickers have recovered from the illness.
"I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to continue to follow the guidelines regarding physical distancing, remaining at home and frequent hand-washing," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in the release Saturday.
"These practices will save lives."
New cases 'under investigation'
The department could not say whether the new cases were travel-related or suspected of being by community transmission.
The six new cases include:
- Two in Zone 1, southeast. They include one person in their 50s and another person in their 70s.
- Four in Zone 2, south. They include two people in their 20s. One person in their 50s and another person in their 70s.
"Due to the steadily increasing number of cases, the investigations are becoming more complex," Anne Mooers, a provincial government spokesperson, said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
"We are taking the appropriate time to ensure the investigations are thorough and the information we provide is accurate."
On Friday, the province announced its first possible case of COVID-19 through community transmission. All the other cases until then affected travellers or people who were in contact with travellers.
Transport Canada has introduced new rules for domestic travel in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, as the number of cases worldwide of the COVID-19 respiratory illness exceeded 600,000
In New Brunswick, Russell said she expects more community transmission of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.
"That will be the pattern moving forward."
Here's a roundup of other developments.
No daily briefing for public
Chief medical health officer Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs did not hold their regular daily news conference Saturday to update the public on the COVID-19 outbreak.
The next news conference is to take place Monday at 2:30 p.m. in Fredericton, the government said when it cancelled Saturday's briefing.
Except for occasional bits of information obtained from communications workers with the province, all government information during the outbreak has to be delivered either by Russell or Higgs.
The premier has said that for now he's the only elected person in the government who is allowed to speak to the public or answer questions, although that could change.
On Saturday afternoon, the province issued a recorded video of Russell online.
In the video, Russell advised residents to stay home and said they should only leave if they need to run an errand, such as grocery shopping.
"At this time we know that we will continue to be announcing, in the days ahead, more cases," Russell said.
Changes to Service NB
On Saturday, the province announced that all Service New Brunswick locations will be closed until April 1. Then, only select service centres will reopen by appointment only. These locations include:
- Saint John
- St. Stephen
Instructions for setting up an in-person appointment will be announced in coming days.
The decision was made after Service Canada announced it would close all of its centres across the country to ensure the safety of customers.
Service New Brunswick is still offering many services online and through TeleServices from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1-888-762-8600.
Auto repair shops see few customers
Although auto repair shops are allowed to stay open in New Brunswick, some are operating with limited staff and a decrease in hours.
Woodriver Valley Automotive Services Inc., in Moncton is still operating, but business has certainly slowed.
"We're trying to deal with one person at a time to avoid people going face to face," said Phil Taekema, owner of the local business.
"It's one customer at a time."
When staff are repairing vehicles, they're wiped down before they get inside the vehicle and after.
"We're making sure steering wheels are wiped down and spending very little time in the car if possible," he said.
Typically, spring is a busy time of year because drivers want to put on their summer tires. He expects that will be delayed by up to four weeks.
"Everything will take a lot longer just because of the cleaning and everybody's apprehension to come in," he said.
Eugene LeBlanc owns Valley Auto Glass & Body Shop in the village of Memramcook just outside Moncton.
There, he works on collision repair, auto glass and buys old vehicles that he restores.
Over the past few weeks, he has seen a decrease in customers coming to his shop.
"Everybody pretty much cancelled," he said.
Although his business is still open, he believes the outbreak and physical distancing could last a while.
LeBlanc said this could eventually have a greater impact on his business.
"If nobody comes out, I'm not going to stock up on vehicles because stuff won't sell."
Agriculture, aquaculture, fishing and processing operations are essential services and are permitted to continue, but workplaces must take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, Premier Blaine Higgs says.
"They play an important role in keeping New Brunswickers healthy. We will continue to work with these sectors to address challenges as they arise," Higgs said in the news release Saturday.
Shortage of medical supplies
Medical students in Saint John are collecting much needed medical supplies for doctors.
Student representative Valancy Cole said doctors are running out of supplies and finding it difficult to access protective equipment, including surgical masks.
They are also looking for face shields, goggles and other protective eyewear, hand sanitizer and protective gloves, disposable gowns and disinfectant wipes.
"We're calling out to individuals or industry or other health-care individuals that are currently not practising right now."
Patients urged to stay home
Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, has been hearing from doctors about the shortage of available supplies, such as gowns and masks.
"These are things doctors don't typically have in the office."
Goodyear has been telling doctors to screen all patients before they come into the office. And if they have symptoms of COVID-19, patients should call 811 and avoid the doctor's office altogether.
"But it doesn't always work that way and certainly if you're a physician in your private office it would be ideal to have some of the [personal protective equipment] available if that need should arise."
Goodyear said the medical society is encouraging doctors to use the virtual care model when they can and to screen every patent before they arrive at the office.
What to do if you have any symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough or breathlessness. In this case, residents should:
Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
Follow instructions carefully.