Premier Blaine Higgs said no new pandemic-related restrictions are planned for New Brunswick until the effects of recently-implemented measures are understood.
But he said new actions are not likely to target specific health zones or regions specifically hard hit by the fourth wave of COVID-19, but rather the entire province instead.
New Brunswick returned to a state of emergency over the weekend, with limits on indoor gatherings and the reintroduction of the so-called ‘Steady 20’ contacts for household bubbles.
Those changes were announced two days after the province reinstated mandatory masks in indoor public spaces and a proof of vaccination policy.
Kevin Wilson, a Halifax-based epidemiologist and pandemic data analyst, said the government could be hesitant to impose further blanket restrictions because the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is being driven by a smaller, unvaccinated segment of the population.
He said New Brunswick should consider tightening rules in specific regions or health zones to try to cool down hot spots.
“If the problem is very localized, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a localized reaction,” Wilson said.
“(For example,) if you can get Moncton under control just by ramping up testing or reintroducing masks, by all means, do the least disruptive thing possible.”
New Brunswick Medical Society president Dr. Jeff Steeves said the province will want to track the success or failure of the newest measures before making other moves.
“Seeing how fast this has returned, particularly the last two or three weeks, that we’re going to have to watch very, very closely,” Steeves said. “We just put in measures and if we don’t see a tick in a week then we may have to impose more.”
The Department of Health echoed Dr. Steeves in an email statement to Global News.
“At present, the framework for imposing or lessening Mandatory Order and public health measures is reliant on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province,” wrote spokesman Bruce Macfarlane.
“There are a myriad of public health measures mandated since last week to reduce the number of cases across the province at large. It will take upwards of two weeks from the introduction and adoption of these measures to impact COVID-19’s community transmission and trends in New Brunswick.”
Higgs said COVID-19 caseloads that lead to operational changes in hospitals will an important factor in any future measures.
He said any new restrictions will likely be applied across the province, not to individual health zones.
“At this stage, it seems like our focus has to be on a provincial approach,” Higgs said. “So we can basically put rules and regulations in place that people can understand, that they can accept as real and necessary.”
Steeves and Wilson say the province should be as transparent as possible when imposing additional restrictions.
Failing that, Wilson said health officials threaten to alienate New Brunswick residents who have worked hard and followed rules to date.
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