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Newfoundland and Labrador stresses physical distancing guidelines with 15 new COVID-19 cases

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball joins Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald in a COVID-19 update on March 18, 2020.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball joins Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald in a COVID-19 update on March 18, 2020. Facebook: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador’s top doctor says it’s important for people to realize that when they are self-isolating they should be staying on their own property and not travelling to visit others during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald outlined procedures around physical distancing during a provincial update on Sunday, where premier Dwight Ball announced the release of a new animation to highlight physical distancing as Newfoundland and Labrador heads into the third week of their efforts to combat COVID-19.

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The province announced 15 new cases of the disease on Sunday, bringing the total of COVID-19 cases to 135 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The chief medical officer said on Sunday she believed 99 of the 135 cases in the province are connected to Caul’s Funeral Home in St. John’s, which was visited by someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 earlier this month.

READ MORE: 18 new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland, community transmission confirmed

Fitzgerald said seven people are now in hospital, two of which are in intensive care.

The announcement comes only a day after Newfoundland and Labrador confirmed the first case of community transmission.

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Fitzgerald described community transmission in as a significant event but used the opportunity to stress the importance of everyone needing to practice physical distancing.

“Your actions will make a difference,” she said.

“Do not socialize with friends. The only people you should be seeing right now are the people in your home.”

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The premier said that a rise in numbers is not what he would have preferred to see but that it’s not unexpected.

Ball asked for people to limit trips to the store after seeing photos of individuals lined up outside of stores. He asked for individuals to “be responsible and take every safety measure available to you,” said Ball. “Stay six feet apart.”

Ball said that there are new checkpoints along the border between Labrador and Quebec that are being used to make sure people are complying with health and safety guidelines.

Truckers face major concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic
Truckers face major concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic

He stressed that going across the border to purchase something because it is cheaper is not acceptable.

“Those are not essential items,” Ball said.

Health Minister John Haggie said now is the time to follow health guidelines.

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“What we do now will determine what happens in the next three to six to eight months in this province,” said Haggie.

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.

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.

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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.