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‘Hold fast Newfoundland and Labrador’: Province confirms outbreak of U.K. COVID-19 variant

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Newfoundland and Labrador confirms outbreak is result of U.K. variant' Coronavirus: Newfoundland and Labrador confirms outbreak is result of U.K. variant
WATCH: Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health announced on Friday that the ongoing outbreak in the St. John’s metro region is the result of B.1.1.7. COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in the U.K – Feb 12, 2021

The ongoing outbreak in Newfoundland and Labrador’s St. John’s metro region is the result of B.1.1.7. COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in the U.K.

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey — who is running for re-election as premier — along with Health Minister John Haggie and Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, broke the news to the province at a late-night emergency COVID-19 update Friday.

“Now is the time for all of us to pull together…. hold fast Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Fitzgerald.

Read more: Newfoundland and Labrador cancels in-person voting for election as COVID-19 cases spike

As a result of the news, Fitzgerald said the entire province is moving to Alert Level 5 of the province’s coronavirus plan, in order to deal with the variant which can spread quicker than the normal COVID-19 virus.

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She said that everyone in a household will get it rather than just a couple of people if indoor gatherings continue to be held.

Fitzgerald said the province is going off the assumption that all of the cases detected since Feb. 5 are cases of the UK variant.

As of Friday afternoon, 248 of the province’s 660 cases have been reported from that date. Fitzgerald said an additional nine cases had been confirmed since this afternoon’s briefing.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: N.L. top doctor says all samples sent for analysis since Feb. 5 came back as U.K. variant' Coronavirus: N.L. top doctor says all samples sent for analysis since Feb. 5 came back as U.K. variant
Coronavirus: N.L. top doctor says all samples sent for analysis since Feb. 5 came back as U.K. variant – Feb 12, 2021

Fitzgerald said all 19 samples sent by the Newfoundland and Labrador government to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for analysis had come back as being the U.K. variant

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Furey confirmed that he had spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who offered any and all supports that the province may need.

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Province moves to Alert Level 5

Under the province Alert Level 5, residents are urged to stay at home as much as possible except to get essentials like groceries and medications.

Newfoundland and Labradorians are urged to limit contact with others and to contact 811 if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Gatherings of more than 5 people are prohibited as are all funerals, wakes and visitations.

All gym and fitness facilities, arenas, playground and municipal parks are closed.

The province is encouraging outdoor activities such as walking, hiking or riding a bike as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

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Read more: Tam warns that COVID-19 spread can occur suddenly in places used to low cases

Under Alert Level 5 all retail stores that “do not provide services essential to life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals” are closed to in-person service. However, stores can offer online or telephone sales with delivery or curbside pick-up.

Restaurants are also closed to in-person dining.

A full list of closures can be found on the province’s website.

Although officials seemed unable or unwilling to provide an update on the state of the provincial election — which was scheduled to go ahead on Saturday in roughly half of the districts — the province’s chief electoral officer announced that all in-person voting would be closed Saturday.

The vote will now be held by mail, with ballots being accepted on or before March 1. The deadline for ballot applications was also pushed from Saturday night to Monday at 8 p.m.

In-person voting had already been postponed for 18 of the province’s 40 districts on Thursday, mainly due to a shortage of election workers who were concerned about contracting the virus.

–With files from Global’s Sean Boynton

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