Atlantic provinces tighten measures aimed at preventing COVID-19 spread

Health officials and governments in Atlantic Canada are stepping up measures as they try to inhibit the spread of COVID-19.

In New Brunswick there are a wide range of closures today affecting bars, cinemas, libraries and museums, while restaurants are also being asked to limit customers to 50 per cent capacity.

New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are both moving to allow as many public sector workers to work from home as possible and are encouraging the private sector to follow suit.

A public health emergency is in effect in Prince Edward Island after Premier Dennis King announced the move late Monday.

King says the declaration will enable Dr. Heather Morrison, the Island’s chief public health officer, to take steps such as ordering the public not to attend public gatherings and to manage hospitals and ambulance services.

Courts in Nova Scotia are asking lawyers and members of the public who have travelled internationally within the last two weeks, or who are experiencing symptoms linked to the coronavirus, not to visit courthouses anywhere in the province.

Meanwhile, lawyers handling court matters are being encouraged to co-operate where possible to find alternative measures to deal with them, such as telephone and video conferencing.

In media briefings on Monday, officials in all four Atlantic provinces stressed the critical importance of social distancing and of following public advisories on such things as large gatherings.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said it is not that people are failing to hear the message.

“But it’s so important that we need to keep repeating it … and I’m going to keep saying self-isolate.”

Strang has already used the powers in the province’s Health Protection Act to close schools and daycares and to make it mandatory for those returning from international travel to self-isolate for 14 days.

“At this point we will do whatever we have to do to protect public health,” Premier Stephen McNeil said.

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

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