New Brunswick has moved back into the yellow phase of COVID-19 recovery.
Tighter restrictions were imposed in early 2021 after a post-holiday spike in cases that saw more confirmed coronavirus cases in New Brunswick in January than in the previous nine months combined.
The yellow phase will look different than the previous restriction levels under yellow, but many businesses in Saint John say they’re looking forward to the change.
Liz Miller, owner of Good Fibrations textile shop in uptown Saint John, said she’s hopeful the province didn’t make the change too quickly, especially with March Break just wrapping up and any increase in cases not reflected in the move to yellow.
She said she only allows a maximum of four people into her store under the current orange restriction level.
Miller said it’s been difficult to keep up with the adjustments to the recovery phases, so her operational plan will remain the same.
“Until I have two needles in my arm, and everyone else I know has, I don’t think that yellow, orange, red, whatever,” Miller said. “We still need to respect everybody’s space and everybody’s health and if that means continuing with the sanitizing and the masks, it’s not so much to ask, really.”
In the new-look yellow phase, sports teams are allowed to play across different health zones and formal indoor gatherings are allowed at 50 per cent capacity and with proper social distancing.
Also, residents can extend their contact bubbles – dubbed their “Steady 10” by New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell – to a Steady 15 for socializing and dining out.
“There’s more opportunity for friends and family to get out,” said Mike McPartand, owner/operator of Cask and Kettle Irish Gastropub in Saint John. “We’re an Irish pub, so our job is to make you forget about your job, and the less restrictions we have, the easier it is for us to do that.”
Miller and McPartland say business has been mostly good for them throughout the pandemic in part due to the Atlantic Bubble bringing in customers from three other provinces.
On Friday, Premier Blaine Higgs hinted at a possible reopening of the bubble in early summer.
McPartland said he’s all for it.
“We loved the Atlantic Bubble,” McPartland said. “All the issues that we had last year, we ended up having a great year because I think we got a lot of people from PEI, we got a lot of people from Nova Scotia. And we are one region.”
“There won’t be, probably, a whole bunch of craft shows and sales like we usually do,” said Miller. “But having those people coming in, those tourists, those Atlantic tourists, it’s all good.”
The move back to yellow is scheduled to take place Sunday, March 7, at 11:59 p.m., but health officials have expressed concern about a recent jump in cases in the Miramichi area, which could delay plans for that health zone.