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New Brunswick confirms 7 additional COVID-19 cases, announces relief programs

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

New Brunswick has seven more cases of COVID-19, the province’s chief medical officer of health announced on Thursday.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said the additional cases — all of which are travel-related — bring the total number to 33 cases in New Brunswick.

READ MORE: Campobello Island residents say trek through Maine raises COVID-19 concerns

Russell said the current restrictions on travel and public interaction are not meant to last forever but are necessary to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

New Brunswick confirms 7 additional COVID-19 cases, announces relief programs
New Brunswick confirms 7 additional COVID-19 cases, announces relief programs

“This will not be over soon,” she said. “But we can get through this together.”

Russell explained the province is committed to testing those who are at the greatest risk, saying this is the best way to conserve testing resources.

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“The advice I have given over the past weeks insistently and consistently still stands,” said Russell.

“Stay home as much as you possibly can.”

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The chief medical officer of health acknowledged that community transmission has occurred in other areas of the country but said it has not been detected in the province as of Thursday.

Premier Blaine Higgs said layoffs in the province are believed to have impacted between 25,00 and 30,000 individuals as a result of the new coronavirus.

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The true figures will become clearer after Statistics Canada releases its figures for the entire month.

“[This is] unlike anything we have experienced before,” said Higgs during the update on Thursday.
How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic
How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic

Province details assistance programs

The premier also provided more details on series of assistance programs he announced earlier this week.

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Under the program, workers and self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their jobs due to the province’s state of emergency over COVID-19 will receive a one-time $900 benefit.

Higgs said he hopes the program begin as early as Friday or by Monday at the latest.

The benefit will be administered through the Red Cross and is meant to bridge the time between now and when individuals receive federal benefits, which begin on April 6, 2020.

Higgs said the province is budgeting $4.5 million for the bridge program.

READ MORE: New Brunswick truck driver questions lack of testing at border crossing

The premier also announced a series of legislative amendments that will be introduced to provide protection for workers who must take a leave of absence due to COVID-19.

The program will allow an unpaid leave of up to 15 week to employees who have COVID-19 or who are caring for someone with the virus.

The province is also preparing $50 million in assistance programs. Those will include:

  • Elimination of interest on WorkSafeNB assessment premiums for a period of three months
  • Small business owners will be eligible for loans up to $200,000. Businesses will not be required to pay principal on their loan for up to 12 months.
  • Working capital of more than $200,000 to assist medium to large-sized employers manage the effects of COVID-19. Businesses can apply through Opportunities NB.
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Travel restrictions implemented Wednesday

Higgs announced on Wednesday that there will be restrictions for all travellers coming from outside the province.

The premier said all travellers, whether they’re coming from abroad or from other provinces, must self-isolate for 14 days.

“Unnecessary travels are no longer allowed,” he said.

Peace officers are authorized to turn away visitors when they attempt to enter.

“We must do all we can to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “We are implementing screening at interprovincial borders. Regardless of where you are, we urge you to avoid any non-essential travel.”

Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick now has 26 COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus outbreak: New Brunswick now has 26 COVID-19 cases

Travellers entering the province from Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia will be stopped by peace officers and required to produce identification.

Contact information and intended destinations are being collected and tracked for all travellers, including those travelling through New Brunswick to another province.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Aya Al-Hakim