Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting 349 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, gaining more cases in a single day than it accumulated in total during the first eight months of the pandemic.
Most of the cases, 199, are located in the Eastern Health region, along with 53 cases in the Central Health region, 22 in the Western Health region and 66 new cases in the Labrador-Grenfell region.
One of the cases in the Labrador-Grenfell region includes the first confirmed case in the community of Sheshatshiu, according to Shannon Tobin, special liaison to Chief Eugene Hart. The town implemented special security measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community Wednesday night.
There are also nine new cases as a result of testing completed by a private lab outside of a regional health authority. Those cases do not fit in the breakdown of cases by health region.
The sources of all cases are under investigation.
The new cases, offset by 32 announced recoveries, bring the number of active cases in the province to 1,428 — an all-time high since the pandemic began in March 2020.
There are 975 cases in the Eastern Health region, 174 in the Central Health region, 163 in the Western Health, 105 in the Labrador-Grenfell region and 11 cases for which the region is unknown.
The new numbers set another record for highest single-day case increase in the province, fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday the majority of recently reported cases are Omicron cases.
One person is currently in hospital due to COVID-19. A total of 3,441 tests have been completed in the last 24 hours, bringing the number of completed tests in the province to 388,900.
Vaccination against COVID-19 continues in the province, with over 92 per cent of the eligible population now deemed fully vaccinated. Over 95 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, including over 65 per cent of eligible children aged five to 11.
Health-care visitation suspended
During Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister John Haggie said the Health Department was ushering in the additional restrictions for the next two weeks across all regions.
"You can recall back in March of 2020 we took prompt action to protect those most vulnerable citizens," Haggie said.
"It is unfortunate we have to do this at the holiday season, but our prime concern has to be the safety of residents within these facilities."
Haggie said the restrictions will be reevaluated in two weeks.
In a media release on Thursday, Eastern Health said effective immediately, all in-person visits to inpatients in hospitals and residents of long-term care homes, personal care homes, community care homes and assisted living facilities are shut down until further notice.
"The general public are asked not to visit any patients or residents during this time," the media release reads.
Eastern Health said inpatients and residents may be permitted one designated support person or caregiver for the duration of their stay in "certain exceptional circumstances," while these restrictions are in place.
Other exceptions include:
Pediatric in-patients are permitted to have both parents or guardians as support persons, who may be present at the same time.
Labour and delivery patients may have one support person attend labour and delivery. The support person can continue to support the patient for the duration of the time in hospital and there are no restrictions on the number of visits per day.
Palliative care and end-of-life visitation should be discussed with the health-care team.
Similar restrictions are in place in the Central and Western Health regions, according to those health authorities' respective websites.
Labrador-Grenfell Health is permitting one essential support person for residents of long-term care homes, while obstetric patients may have two visitors and palliative-care patients are permitted up to six.
Metrobus also announced Thursday it will begin on a reduced schedule in metro St. John's effective Monday due to an anticipated decrease in ridership as people work from home and schools move learning online. Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said in a media release the buses will be essentially "operating on a summer schedule."
Under Alert Level 3, buses are limited to 19 passengers.
More COVID-19 exposure notifications were issued Thursday, anyone who visited the listed locations at the following dates and times should book a COVID-19 test:
Eastern Health region:
Five Guys, Avalon Mall, 48 Kenmount Rd., St. John's, Dec. 24 from noon to 1:00 p.m.
Denny's, 227 Kenmount Rd., St. John's, Dec. 26 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
GoodLife Fitness, Atlantic Place, 215 Water St., St. John's, Dec. 23 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Warehouse Gym, 1A Blackmore Ave., Clarenville, Dec. 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
McDonald's, 54 Kenmount Rd., St. John's, Dec. 23 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Dec. 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Kelsey's Restaurant, 300 Kenmount Rd., St. John's, Dec. 26 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Hair Strand & Spa, 1306 Topsail Rd., Paradise, Dec. 22 from 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
A&W, 68 Kenmount Rd., St. John's, Dec. 24 from 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Subway (Orangestore), 986 Kenmount Rd., Paradise, Dec. 23 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Mallard Cottage, 8 Barrows Rd., St. John's, Dec. 22 from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For those looking to be tested in the Western Health region, the health authority announced testing in the Stephenville and Bay St. George areas will now take place at Stephenville High School starting Friday. Anyone who had an appointment will now be seen at the walk-in school site.