N.L., N.B. report variant-driven COVID-19 clusters as case counts climb

·2 min read

Efforts to outpace the spread of COVID-19 through vaccination continued in Atlantic Canada Wednesday, as two provinces in the region reported a rise in infections driven by variants of concern.

New Brunswick's deputy chief medical officer said a cluster of cases in Moncton, N.B., was fuelled by the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. “Some of the new cases have spread from the Moncton region … to five other health zones in our province,” Dr. Cristin Muecke said in a news release.

"In the Moncton cluster, 94 per cent of our cases are among those who are not fully vaccinated."

Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Wednesday he was considering making vaccination mandatory for government employees and anyone whose job is funded by the province.

"We'll be requesting that anyone working with the province in terms of nursing homes and things we are funding that they would follow the same recommendation that we are providing to our direct employees," Higgs said.

He said the mandate would be a recommendation from public health and not part of an emergency order. Anyone who refused to be vaccinated would be subject to more frequent testing, he added.

New Brunswick officials reported 16 new cases Wednesday, half of which were in the Moncton region. The remaining eight cases were spread over the Bathurst, Fredericton, Saint John and Miramichi areas. The province has 115 active reported cases of COVID-19 and one person in hospital with the disease. Nearly 72 per cent of residents aged 12 and older are fully immunized and more than 83 per cent have received at least one dose of vaccine.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, officials said they've identified a cluster in the capital city of St. John's. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, told reporters Wednesday the cluster involves four infections but she expected that figure to rise.

"There are a fair number of contacts, so we expect to see more cases in those contacts," Fitzgerald said. "Most of what we're seeing coming in right now is … the Delta variant, so we know that is more contagious." The cluster originated from a travel-related infection, she said.

Fitzgerald reported six new infections Wednesday in the eastern health region, which includes St. John's, and a total of 12 active cases across the province. More than 70 per cent of residents aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated while more than 85 per cent have received at least one shot.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Nova Scotia reported nine new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and a total of 25 active infections in the province. Just over 77 per cent of Nova Scotia's population has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 68.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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