New Brunswick moves into next phase of COVID-19 recovery plan

New Brunswick moved into the next phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan on Friday, allowing barbers and hair stylists to reopen while permitting people to expand their social “bubbles” to include close friends and family.

The “yellow level” of the province’s recovery plan, to be rolled out in stages over the next several weeks, will eventually allow churches, gyms, bowling alleys and yoga studios to reopen their doors.

“We have all been a part of achieving this, and I want to thank all New Brunswickers for the continued co-operation and patience,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said during a news conference on Friday.

Effective immediately, New Brunswickers can also form so-called “bubbles” with up to 10 family and friends.

“You can now spend time with the close friends and family members you usually see on a regular basis. We are recommending that gatherings be limited to 10 people or fewer. So it’s not like inviting your ball team over or having a house party, but is an important next step to getting together and the new norm under COVID-19,” said Higgs.

Starting Friday, non-regulated medical services along with personal service businesses such as beauty salons and tattoo parlours will be allowed to reopen. More businesses and services will resume in waves over the next few weeks.

“These businesses need to respect physical distancing measures, except when clients are receiving services,” New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs said Friday.

New Brunswick will also allow temporary foreign workers to return to the province as of May 29, in an effort to fill jobs on farms and in fish processing facilities

“We are still prioritizing the safety of New Brunswickers, but as we restart our economy, we also need to find ways to meet the needs of the agriculture and seafood industries,” said Higgs.

On Friday, Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, said lifting the ban now is a bit late.

“The fishing season is short. It is finishing at the end of June. By the time these people come in and have a two-week quarantine, you’re looking at mid-June before they can be up and running. The season is almost done by then,” said Mallet.

Next Friday, May 29, additional restrictions will be lifted, including swimming pools, water parks, gyms, yoga studios and dance studios, rinks, and indoor recreational facilities and pool halls and bowling alleys.

Low contact sports activities will also be able to begin operating on May 29, provided they have an operational plan, including physical distancing when possible, and limiting the number of spectators to one adult per child for youth leagues.

Beginning on Friday, June 19, overnight camps will be able to open, provided they establish public health measures and provide an operational plan, including a process to screen children, parents and staff.

“Every New Brunswicker is being empowered with a certain amount of responsibility to protect their fellow citizens right now, and we encourage them to take that responsibility very, very seriously,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s medical officer of health. “It will impact vulnerable populations, it will impact institutions. We are going to live with this for a long time, and we all have to become very comfortable and aware that the risks will be with us until we get a vaccine.”

No new cases

New Brunswick reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a day after the province reported its first new case since May 6.

The new case, which is under investigation, is a person under the age of 19 in Zone 5, which is the Campbellton region near the border with Quebec.

A daycare in Zone 5 has been closed until further notice and family and staff have been notified as part of the contract tracing process.

“We have watched at every stage to make sure the disease did not reappear but it was known to us that we would eventually see more cases because we have cases all around us on our borders with Nova Scotia, Maine and Quebec,” said Dr. Russell.

It is the 121st confirmed case in the province since the pandemic began. The other 120 people have all recovered.

So far, the province has done 21,752 tests.

“This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, and it doesn’t mean that we want to see large numbers of people gathering and not social distancing,” said Russell. “I know this can happen and has been happening, and I want to discourage that and encourage people to take all the precautions they need to protect themselves and their loved ones and every other New Brunswicker.”

Seasonal residents travelling through N.B.

Premier Higgs also addressed his concerns with Prince Edward Island’s recent announcement that they will allow seasonal residents to travel to the island beginning June 1.

“We should be able to ensure that when they come to our borders, they have a reason why they are coming,” said Higgs. “I understand that P.E.I. will have a strong application process, so that residents are well understood, and I would assume they would share that with us so we could share that with our officials at the border.”

In an interview with CTV Atlantic anchor Steve Murphy on Wednesday, Higgs said that decision might affect the potential of a ‘tourism bubble’ between P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

“We’ll continue to work with P.E.I. and public health officials to determine the next phase of our alignment going forward. We have from the beginning allowed other people to come through New Brunswick to get to the other provinces and that will continue,” Higgs said on Friday.

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