New Brunswick preparing for COVID vaccinations, P.E.I. easing restrictions

·3 min read

FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick announced six new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and revealed more details about the province's plans to administer its first set of vaccinations against the novel coronavirus.

New Brunswick received a shipment of 1,950 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week, and Premier Blaine Higgs said 1,950 people will receive their first of two doses over the weekend, beginning Saturday.

The vaccinations will take place at the Miramichi Regional Hospital, about 170 kilometres north of Fredericton.

"Nursing home residents will be taken to the Mirimachi Regional Hospital and front-line health-care workers are being given appointments to receive their vaccine," Higgs told reporters Thursday.

Residents and staff at Shannex retirement facilities in the Miramichi area as well as staff from long-term care and residential facilities in neighbouring areas have also been invited to receive vaccines this weekend, he said.

Another shipment of 3,900 doses is set to arrive next week, Higgs said. Half will be set aside to give this weekend's recipients their second dose and the remaining 1,950 doses will divided in half to give two shots to 975 people in Moncton, beginning the week of Dec. 28, Higgs said.

Health officials continue to battle two COVID-19 outbreaks in the province. As of Thursday, 13 cases have been confirmed at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, near the province's international border with Maine.

"We are deeply concerned about the outbreak at the Edmundston Regional Hospital and the potential for the virus to spread through the community," chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Thursday. The efforts of hospital staff to treat COVID-19 patients while working to contain the outbreak have been "heroic," she said.

The Edmundston area remains in a heightened "orange" pandemic-alert level. Russell said officials are encouraged by the lack of wider spread in the community.

Also as of Thursday, 20 cases have been confirmed at Shannex's Parkland retirement facility in Saint John, Russell said, adding that regular testing for staff is ongoing.

Health officials reported six new COVID-19 infections Thursday, involving two people in Moncton, one person in Saint John and three people in Edmundston. The province has 55 active cases of COVID-19 and three people are in hospital with the disease, two of which are in intensive care.

Prince Edward Island, meanwhile, is planning to ease COVID-19 restrictions starting Friday.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said Thursday that limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased to members of a household plus ten extra people. The new rules will be in place until Jan. 11, she said.

In-person dining can resume, but restaurants need to close at 11 p.m. and limit tables to ten people, she said. Gyms, museums and libraries can open at 50 per cent capacity.

The province imposed what it called a "circuit-breaker" lockdown on Dec. 7 to smother an outbreak of COVID-19, the source of which authorities couldn't identify.

Morrison said the province reported six COVID-19 infections during the lockdown period, all of which she said were travel related. She reported one new infection on Thursday, involving a man in his 30s who travelled to the Island from outside Atlantic Canada.

In Nova Scotia, authorities reported six new cases of COVID-19, three of which were in the Halifax area.

And in Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported three new COVID-19 infections, the sources of which were still under investigation. All three cases involved people in the eastern region of the province, officials said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press