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Coronavirus: Some New Brunswick businesses unhappy with abrupt transition into reopening

Coronavirus outbreak: Some New Brunswick businesses unhappy with abrupt transition to new recovery phase
WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick businesses are beginning to transition into the second phase of the province’s recovery plan. But one restauranteur says the province didn’t give owners a chance to prepare. Megan Yamoah has more.

New Brunswick businesses are beginning to transition into the second phase of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

But not everyone is happy with the approach of the provincial government.

“Every day seems to be different, even when we opened up for takeout, only we’re just kind of adapting to the rules as they’re coming out,” said Mike Babineau, owner of the Cora in Fredericton, N.B.

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A guide titled “Embracing the New Normal” was released by WorkSafeNB on Friday shortly after Premier Blaine Higgs announced that the province was moving into its “orange” phase.

“Businesses can open effective immediately, but each of them must decide when they are ready to open,” Premier Higgs said Friday.

“Some have been preparing for this moment and will be able to open right away. Others will need more time.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports no new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday

New Brunswick says businesses and restaurants don’t need to be inspected before they reopen but they must prepare an operational plan that can be provided to officials if they drop in.

The plan must detail how physical distancing can be observed, as well as how those who are symptomatic or have travelled outside of the province within the last 14 days will be screened and kept out of their premises before they are permitted to open.

Douglas Jones, CEO of WorkSafeNB, says that anyone showing up at a restaurant is expected to be wearing a face-covering until they get seated in a place separated from other customers.

Saint John may expand restaurant patios by closing some streets to vehicles
Saint John may expand restaurant patios by closing some streets to vehicles

The entire interaction must take place while complying with physical distancing rules of at least two metres

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“We’re going to be under this physical distancing environment for the next 12 to 18 months,” said Jones.

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Staff members will be required to wear masks at all times if physical distancing can’t be followed.

“There’s ways to be creative, can you put barriers up in such a way? Do you have booths in your restaurant? Maybe if you put up a piece of plexiglass or something to raise the top of the booth a little higher?” Jones said.

But Babineau says the province didn’t give owners a chance to prepare and finding creative solutions will cost him more money than he can afford.

“We have a capacity of 150 here so if I really wanted to get 150 in here, the plexiglass or any kind of a divider that would be required, I’m looking at thousands of dollars,” he said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick dental offices will not open before May 13

In order to comply with the province’s physical distancing rules, he plans to seat customers at every other booth.

Downtown Fredericton Inc. says the guidelines from WorkSafeNB are too little, too late.

“We would have really like to have had an additional week to be prepared and as you talk to most of the restaurants, they are really scrambling now,” said Bruce McCormack, president of the association.

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“Because they were not prepared to go out and get a big food order in without knowing exactly what the rules were.”

McCormack said Downtown Fredericton Inc. is now offering a hand with a new program they’ve created, which will provide a start-up grant up to $500.

N.B. restaurants permitted to reopen
N.B. restaurants permitted to reopen

Babineau is preparing for a busy opening weekend and getting his staff up to speed on their new operational plan.

“It’s just going to be following the rules as best we can to make this work for everybody and make everybody feel as comfortable as possible coming into our restaurants,” Babineau said.

He added that anyone heading out for a hot breakfast should be prepared to wait outside to be seated.

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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.

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