New Brunswick is going ahead with a multi-phased lifting of COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Phase 1 of the plan will begin immediately and will be focused on allowing New Brunswickers to take part in outdoor activities.
Golf courses will be allowed to open while keeping their clubhouses and restaurants closed, fishing and hunting seasons will go forward and use of outdoor spaces will be permitted.
“It is understandable that New Brunswickers are getting increasingly anxious to return to some sense of normalcy,” said Higgs.
“With proper physical distancing people can now enjoy outdoor spaces including parks and beaches.”
The province confirmed on Friday that it has detected no new cases of COVID-19 for the sixth straight day.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said that only 11 of the 118 cases in New Brunswick remain active.
A system of two-family bubbles
The easing of social restrictions will begin with “two-family bubbles.”
Effectively, two households would be able to mutually decide to include one another in their family unit and physical-distancing requirements would be dropped for them.
Officials say the arrangements will have to be discussed and decided upon by individual families.
People will not be able to overlap with other households or families, and they will have to be “exclusive” relationships.
Carpools will also be allowed with a limit of two people per vehicle with the passenger riding in the back seat. Post-secondary students will be able to access their campus if it’s determined safe by the school.
Post-secondary programs that have hands-on requirements will be permitted to operate with strict controls. Officials say that graduates from practical programs that require hands-on training are in high demand and are needed in the province.
For New Brunswickers of faith, outdoor or “drive-in” religious meetings will be allowed to occur.
“These are first steps,” he said. “Large gatherings such as festivals and concerts will not be allowed until after Dec. 31, though this is a subject that will be reviewed depending on circumstances.”
A phased approach to opening
For this to happen, it is assumed that a return to absolute normal will not happen until a vaccine is developed which will likely take 12 to 18 months.
With that in mind, the province is counting on physical distancing, physical barriers, handwashing and masks to be part of the new normal.
“I will not hesitate to recommend the reimposition of the restrictions being loosened today if the outbreak worsens,” she said.
“Any significant acceleration of the disease curve will trigger a new round of restrictions to public movement and activity.”
Remote working where possible is likely to be maintained throughout the recovery period. Large-scale testing and monitoring will also be central to the recovery plan.
Border controls will also be maintained until a vaccine is developed.
All of these measures could be quickly reversed if certain criteria are met.
If there are three unlinked community cases within six days, all public health restrictions will be reimposed.
The next phase of the plan would allow retail businesses to open under strict controls.
Daycare access would be expanded, and restaurants, campgrounds, offices and ATV trails will all be open. That phase will be triggered in about two to four weeks should the province stick to current trajectories.
After that “high contact, high risk” activities will return. This includes dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors, hairstylists and barbers, churches, gyms, and other close contact businesses.
This phase will be triggered once the province can go 3 to 4 weeks without a new wave of new cases.
The final phase will include bars and organized sports but the premier said on Friday that phase is unlikely to occur until a vaccine is created.
New Brunswick’s strategy came a day after Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe unveiled a five-phase plan to reopen parts of his province’s economy.
Under Saskatchewan’s plan, dentist offices, optometry clinics and physical therapy providers can open starting May 4, while some retail stores might be allowed to operate as of May 19.
With files from The Canadian Press
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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