New Brunswick’s municipalities will have the discretion to close the parks they operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provincial parks were closed when New Brunswick declared a state of emergency and on Tuesday, Premier Blaine Higgs said he expected municipalities to follow the province’s lead.
That wasn’t mandated, though, and led to some confusion.
“It was a matter of saying ‘look, we need clarity. Specifically on parks.'” said Saint John mayor Don Darling.
“And we got that back yesterday.”
Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton took to social media Wednesday afternoon to confirm their parks would remain open, so long as residents respect social distancing and refrain from gathering in them.
“I think we’re seeing from our federal and provincial leaders that this isn’t going to be a week or two,” said Darling. “Now we’re seeing about this being a prolonged event.”
“I just think it helps us feel less shut-in,” he said.
Other provinces like Nova Scotia and Ontario have shuttered municipally-owned green spaces with their state of emergency declarations and, while New Brunswick’s parks are covered by the Emergency Measures Act as well, Higgs said they’ll mostly be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“In some municipalities, it may be easier,” he said
“They’re not necessarily fenced off, they’re not necessarily able to close them per se – or have the capability -but could certainly monitor them.”
Higgs adds that the province will assist local law enforcement with that monitoring, making sure anyone in the parks has at least two metres of space between them.
“We’ve actually decided that we would have our public safety officers offer to work with municipalities to provide some surveillance from our officers to ensure that compliance is upheld.”
Higgs said those who disobey the Emergency Measures act could face fines – in extreme cases exceeding $10,000.
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.
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.
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