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N.B. premier continues call for national state of emergency as province records 18th case of COVID-19

New Brunswick is set to provide an update on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he believes that a national state of emergency is necessary for Canadians across the country to experience “consistency” during the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We are seeing new measures being put in place each day, and these measures can vary widely between provinces and territories,” Higgs said on Tuesday during a provincial update.

“Enacting a national state of emergency is the best tool to ensure consistency across our country in the level of health care, safeguarding our supply chain, and mitigating the economic impact.”

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The premier appears to be in the minority among his colleagues.

Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick has 1 new case of COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick has 1 new case of COVID-19
“[Invoking the Emergencies Act] is not something that premiers largely thought was necessary at this point,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier on Tuesday in Ottawa.

Higgs said on Tuesday that he is weighing his options on whether to restrict cross-province travel to and from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia, Quebec and P.E.I.

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Although a decision has not been made yet, Higgs said he will discuss the topic with an all-party committee this evening.

READ MORE: New Brunswick has no new cases of coronavirus, majority of businesses complying to orders

During the provincial update, New Brunswick confirmed one additional case of COVID-19 in the province on Tuesday.

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Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief health officer, said the new case is a woman between the ages of 20 and 30, who lives in southeastern New Brunswick and recently returned from travel.

There are now 18 cases in the province. All of the cases have been confirmed by tests conducted in the province as results no longer have to be confirmed by the national laboratory in Winnipeg.

Two of those individuals have required hospitalization, although one has since been discharged.

Russell said all cases found in the province have a travel history outside the province or have had close contact with someone who has travelled.

New Brunswick has no new cases of COVID-19
New Brunswick has no new cases of COVID-19

The chief public officer of health said officials are working to increase testing in the province, with testing available to all those who have symptoms and have travelled outside the province.

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The province has one of the lowest per-capita testing numbers in the country. Russell told media on Tuesday that New Brunswick is at a different point in the outbreak than other provinces.

She said testing criteria is being expanded and will ramp up soon.

On Tuesday, Russell stressed that citizens should practise proper social distancing and stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Staying home will save lives,” said Russell.

READ MORE: N.S. border tightened with emergency declaration, N.B. premier hints at similar measures

Higgs said his government is taking action to defer businesses’ loan payments in order to provide relief to the province’s business sector.

The premier also announced a one-time $900 benefit that will be provided to workers or self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the state of emergency.

The one-tie benefit will be administered through the Red Cross and is meant to bridge the time between when individuals receive federal benefits.

He also said the provincial government has heard of cases of people returning from travel outside the province and not following the directive to self-isolate for 14 days.

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Trails, parks impacted by state of emergency restrictions in Nova Scotia
Trails, parks impacted by state of emergency restrictions in Nova Scotia

Higgs said officers will follow up on those reports, as well as reports of businesses failing to adhere to the terms of the state of emergency declared last week.

The premier said on Monday that province has checked on about 700 businesses to ensure they are complying with the state of emergency declaration, and it was found that 94 per cent are in compliance.

Higgs said at the time that the goal is 100 per cent.

— With files from Aya Al-Hakim