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New Brunswick unveils coronavirus self-assessment tool, closes schools until further notice

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WATCH: The New Brunswick government announced Friday it will be shutting down all schools in the province until further notice. The decision came late on Friday after an update from provincial officials. Silas Brown brings us the latest – Mar 20, 2020

The New Brunswick government has announced that it’s shutting down all schools in the province until further notice.

The closure status will be reassessed in the first week of April in collaboration with public health officials working to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“This coming week, we encourage parents and students to focus on your own physical and mental well-being,” reads a statement issued on Friday from George Daley, deputy minister of education and early childhood development.

“Resources are being assembled to share early next week to help guide and support your efforts.”

In his letter to parents, Daley warns that home learning options won’t be available until next month at the earliest.

READ MORE: Self-isolation for domestic travellers entering Newfoundland, as fourth COVID-19 case detected

That news comes hours after the province unveiled a new online self-assessment tool to assist its residents during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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The tool is available on the province’s website and is meant to help indicate who needs to be tested for COVID-19. Other provinces have introduced similar tools this week.

It was unveiled during an update provided by Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, on Friday.

There are no new cases of COVID-19 in the province and there remains seven confirmed cases and four presumptive cases.

Russell said two days in a row of no new cases means very little and that there she expects more travel-related cases to pop up as people continue to return home.

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Russell asked that New Brunswickers follow the order to self-isolate for 14 days if they have travelled internationally.

Self-isolating does not mean getting their own groceries, Russell said.

But individuals are allowed to step outside for a breath of fresh-air while observing social distancing.

“Limit screen time and social media,” said Russell. “Have some structure and routine to your day.”

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Higgs echoed the important of self-isolation and social-distancing.

“It is imperative we do all we can to keep everyone else healthy,” said Higgs on Friday.

Higgs also announced a six-month interest-free moratorium on provincial student loans, an action that matches a decision made by the federal government earlier this week.

He said that a limited number of Service New Brunswick centres will reopen for “essential transactions” that cannot be done online or by phone. Customers will be screened before entering.

The province is also working with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to come up with a plan that help ensure the issues businesses are facing in the province will be addressed.

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Access to daycare services considered a challenge for Saint John parents, workers – Mar 19, 2020

The premier announced the decision to declare a state of emergency at a press conference on Thursday, saying it was necessary to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.

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“Declaring a state of emergency was not an easy decision,” Higgs said.

Most retail outlets except grocery stores, pharmacies, NB Liquor, Cannabis NB, hardware stores and vehicle garages are expected to close as part of the order. Other retailers than can remain open include convenience stores and animal food providers.

ANBL and Cannabis NB announced that they would be reducing their hours starting this weekend.

The Crown corporation in charge of both organizations said its stores will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and will be closed on Sunday.

Restaurants will be restricted to takeout service, while bars must close.

READ MORE: Uncertainty over temporary foreign workers worries Atlantic farmers

Higgs said anyone who is told to self-isolate by a medical professional must comply by law under the province’s Emergency Measures Act.

“Before, this was a recommendation,” Higgs said on Thursday. “Today, it’s a requirement.”

Another version of this piece incorrectly stated that this week was March Break. That correction was made at 5:52 p.m. AST on March 20, 2020.

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