ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister says it was no fun to be infected with COVID-19 but that he's feeling much better.
John Haggie announced on New Year's Day he had contracted COVID-19 and was experiencing "regular cold symptoms." On Monday, he said he was feeling much better and that he was not admitted to hospital.
"It's one of those COVID-related experiences I could have done without," Haggie told reporters in St. John's. "It was quite a miserable time."
Haggie was one of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to become infected with COVID-19 over the holidays, and he said Monday that the demand for testing overwhelmed the province's capacity to process all the swabs. Officials sent more than 6,635 tests to labs in Winnipeg and Toronto to be analyzed between Dec. 29 and Jan. 6, Haggie said.
So far, 680 have come back positive, and officials are waiting on results from another 2,930 tests, Haggie said. Those results are expected within the next two days.
In addition to the 680 positive cases found in outside labs, health officials reported 455 new cases since Sunday. The province also logged its 22nd and 23rd deaths due to COVID-19. As of Monday, there were 5,955 active reported cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, and four people were in hospital with the disease.
The province's case numbers do not include those who do not qualify for polymerase chain reaction testing; Newfoundland and Labrador is one of several jurisdictions to limit access to PCR tests in response to a spike in infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the provincial Justice Department revealed Monday it would introduce new "safe access zone" rules in March limiting protests around schools and health-care facilities. Justice Minister John Hogan said the move is in response to a small demonstration held over the weekend at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic set up in a St. John's school.
The new legislation would prohibit anyone from interfering with or intimidating workers. "The legislation is not there to prevent peaceful protests," Hogan said in an interview Monday. "It's the intimidation, bullying, threats, those sort of things, which the legislation is there to prevent from happening."
The rules would establish a 50-metre "safe access zone" around K-12 schools and health-care facilities. They will be tabled when the provincial legislature opens in March, a government news release said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2022.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press