N.B. reports three new COVID-19 cases, tightens restrictions in Campbellton area

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FREDERICTON — New Brunswick imposed new restrictions in the north of the province near the border with Quebec's Gaspe peninsula as health authorities reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said beginning Friday, residents in the Campbellton area will be forced to limit their contacts to their households and immediate families.

Russell reported three new cases of COVID-19 — all in the Campbellton-Restigouche health zone. She said the new cases involve one person in their 40s and two people in their 50s.

"We've been seeing transmission within family and social workplace settings so this is one of the measures we know will help stop the spread," she told reporters.

She said residents of the Campbellton region can only gather with members of their households, caregivers and with immediate family such as parents, children, siblings and grandparents.

Russell said the virus is more prevalent in the Campbellton area compared with anywhere else in Atlantic Canada. She said the province has 14.4 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people while in the Campbellton area, she said the ratio is 245 cases per 100,000 people.

She said the outbreak in the region has grown to 69 cases in the past week, adding that there are at least four separate chains of infection that can't be linked to the larger outbreak -- an indication, she said, of community spread.

"I want to impress upon you the urgency of the situation," Russell said. "The spread of COVID-19 presents a grave risk to everyone in this area and thus all New Brunswickers."

Premier Blaine Higgs said about 300 people are in self-isolation in the area. He said all non-essential travel to the region is "highly discouraged."

Higgs also announced that mass testing will be conducted Saturday at the Memorial Regional Civic Centre in Campbellton and at the Inch Arran Arena in neighbouring Dalhousie, N.B., on Sunday.

"We must get back under control because Campbellton and the entire northern region is a key part of our province," he said.

Campbellton was one of two areas in New Brunswick hit by significant COVID-19 outbreaks two weeks ago. The other, the Moncton area, will return to a relaxed pandemic alert level Friday.

New Brunswick has confirmed 81 active cases of COVID-19. The province has reported a total of 322 infections and four deaths linked to the virus.

-- By Keith Doucette in Halifax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press