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Newfoundland and Labrador begins lifting some COVID-19 restrictions

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfounland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, addresses media on COVID-19 on March 21, 2020.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfounland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, addresses media on COVID-19 on March 21, 2020. Facebook: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday lifted some of the public health restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The province entered “alert level four” in its five-level reopening plan, allowing some businesses such as law firms and other professional services to resume operations. Garden centres and regulated child-care centres were also permitted to open, with some restrictions.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said employers are responsible for protective measures such as regular cleaning, physical distancing and work-from-home policies as businesses and workplaces reopen.

“This is not business as usual,” Fitzgerald said.

READ MORE: N.L. representatives hold session to pass pandemic-related legislation

Small gatherings for funerals, burials and weddings are also permitted with a limit of 10 people following physical distancing rules.

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Municipal parks, golf courses and driving ranges can also open and recreational hunting and fishing are permitted. Regional health authorities will allow some low-risk medical procedures to proceed, at their discretion.

The province had 261 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday. Three people have died and 244 have recovered.

Public health officials have said alert level four will last for at least 28 days, allowing for two “incubation periods” of the virus before more restrictions are lifted.

Officials reminded people Monday that the new rules do not allow for parties or other social gatherings.

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Health Minister John Haggie said people need to be patient and avoid rushing back into their old routines, especially over the approaching Victoria Day long weekend when people usually gather together.

He said people generally followed public guidelines over the Easter weekend, but he warned against the temptation of bending rules now that some restrictions have been lifted, pointing to recent COVID-19 resurgences in South Korea and Singapore.

“We need to pace ourselves because if we run, we trip,” Haggie said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: New research underway to screen for stress, burnout in Nova Scotia health-care workers

Elsewhere in the region, Prince Edward Island again reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, keeping that province’s number of confirmed cases at 27 – all of them recovered.

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On Friday, P.E.I.’s chief public health officer announced an easing of some restrictions that would allow members of a household to gather indoors with up to five other people, and outdoors with up to 10 other people.

On Monday, she further clarified who the change was intended for.

“These gatherings apply to personal gatherings among individuals and not businesses,” Dr. Heather Morrison said. “It is very important that we continue to maintain physical distancing as much as possible.”

She said a number of Island businesses are now working with her office on operational plans in anticipation of welcoming back more customers.

“They are wanting to keep the public safe … and they are wanting to keep their staff safe in their businesses and they are trying to figure out the best way to do it,” said Morrison. “We will try to get back to people as quickly as possible about their plans.”

New Brunswick also reported no new cases of COVID-19 Monday keeping the province’s total at 120.

The announcement followed a weekend that saw the province implement the second phase of its four-step recovery plan for the economy.

Stores, offices, restaurants, libraries, museums and campgrounds were allowed to open as long as they had a plan to address public health guidelines for physical distancing, hand hygiene and allowing staff to remain home when ill.

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“It may be the end of this month before we have a clear picture of what has happened in the first weekend of phase two, said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health.

Russell announced a change to visitor restrictions at long-term care homes and hospitals that would allow two people to visit patients who are nearing the end of their lives.

“I believe we can provide access for families while still protecting those at greatest risk,” she said.

Russell said only one visitor will be allowed in at one time, although exceptions can be made in certain circumstances.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported another death related to COVID-19 Monday, along with one more positive case.

Health officials say the death occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

Forty-eight people have died from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, which has been hardest-hit among the Atlantic provinces at this stage of the pandemic, with 1,019 confirmed cases including 767 recoveries.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2020.