ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — As COVID-19 case numbers continue a gradual decline elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador moved Sunday to clamp down on an emerging cluster of infections in the province's western health zone.
Dr. Rosann Seviour, provincial medical officer of health, announced restrictions were being increased in the region because of a number of cases with no identified source of infection.
As a result, Seviour said communities in the Stephenville area and on the Port au Port Peninsula were being moved to Alert Level 4 — the second-highest level under the provincial pandemic response plan — effective 4 p.m. Sunday. She said a testing site would be set up at the Stephenville Dome ice rink on Monday.
"We encourage all residents in the area to get tested," Seviour said at a Sunday news conference. "This testing will assist us to determine if there is community transmission and if so, to what extent."
She said to date, 11 cases had been tied to the cluster in the western region along with three presumptive positive cases.
Under the second highest level of the province's restrictions, people are advised to stay home as much as possible except to get essentials like groceries and medications.
Seviour also advised that travel into the area should also be avoided unless considered essential.
She said communities affected by the new health order included St. George's, Stephenville, Stephenville Crossing, Port au Port East and all towns on the Port au Port Peninsula. Communities along Routes 460, 461, 462, 463 and 490 were also placed under the restrictions.
Seviour said it is unclear how long the new measures will remain in place, adding that it isn't known yet whether any of the new cases are COVID-19 variants.
The province is also investigating a second cluster of cases previously identified in the Lewisporte area in the central health zone. So far, there are 63 confirmed infections and one probable case.
Seviour reported a total of seven new cases of the novel coronavirus across the province Sunday, including four in the western zone, two in the eastern zone and one in the central zone.
Newfoundland and Labrador currently has 104 active cases with three people in hospital.
"We are now at a crossroads in the pandemic as we see continual importation of the virus into our province while we continue to successfully increase our vaccination rates," Seviour said. "We encourage everybody to get the shot."
In Nova Scotia, meanwhile, health officials reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 and one new virus related death on Sunday.
The death was the fifth reported in two days — a woman in her 80s who was a resident of the Halifax area. A total of 85 people have died in the province since the onset of the pandemic.
Nova Scotia has 505 known active cases of the disease, with 42 people in hospital including 17 in intensive care.
Nine new cases were also reported in New Brunswick.
The province has 143 known active infections with seven people in hospital, including three in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2021.
- By Keith Doucette in Halifax
The Canadian Press