Faced with long lineups and heavy demand, health officials in New Brunswick were forced to cut short the distribution of free COVID-19 rapid-test kits at three locations on Saturday.
The province announced Thursday that the kits would be handed out in Moncton, Perth Andover and Grand Falls – areas that have been subjected to strict health-protection measures since Oct. 9 because of a surge in infections and hospitalizations.
The distribution program was supposed to take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, but it was suspended by 11:30 a.m. in Moncton and by 1 p.m. in Perth Andover and Grand Falls.
The kits were made available to those without COVID-19 symptoms living in the so-called circuit-breaker zones, which include COVID-19 hot spots in the upper Saint John River Valley, Edmundston in western New Brunswick, and the Moncton area in the province’s southeastern region.
By 9 a.m. on Saturday, the RCMP were reporting traffic jams near the Moncton location, a parking lot at the Magic Mountain amusement park.
Local residents turned to social media to vent their anger.
“You should arrest the idiot who thought this was a good plan,” said one observer on Twitter, who was responding to the RCMP’s post.
Another critic was more blunt: “LOL. Fail.”
And one person said the distribution of the kits, which can be used at home, was long overdue. “But as soon as I saw only one spot for pick up in the entire area on a Saturday, I knew it would be a nightmare. There should be multiple spots, in multiple towns/cities.”
The province has pledged to offer wider distribution of rapid-test kits starting Monday at 20 locations across the province.
As of Friday, New Brunswick’s per-capita infection rate had risen to 179 per 100,000 over the previous 14 days. That rate was higher than every other province, except Saskatchewan and Alberta. In neighbouring Nova Scotia, the per-capita rate was almost five times lower than in New Brunswick.
On July 30, New Brunswick became the first province in Atlantic Canada to remove all health-protection measures, including mask-wearing rules.
At the time, some infectious disease experts warned that the decision to lift mask-wearing rules would contribute to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Since early September, the province has experienced an unprecedented number of deaths, hospitalizations and admission to intensive-care units.
On Sept. 24, as the Delta variant continued to spread rapidly across the province, Premier Blaine Higgs reimposed a state of emergency on the same day a senior health official admitted that lifting all restrictions two months earlier was a mistake.
And on Oct. 5, Higgs imposed a series of tough measures – including strict gathering limits during the Thanksgiving holiday – to stop the surge in infections and ease the strain on the province’s health-care system.
Meanwhile, provincial health officials reported two more COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, bringing the total in the province to 84. The deaths involve a person over the age of 90 in the Fredericton region and a person in their 70s in the Edmundston region.
Officials also reported 87 new cases and an active case count at 1,064. Sixty infected people were recovering in hospital, including 18 in intensive care.
Since Sept. 7, 99 schools in the province and 53 early learning and child-care facilities have had confirmed cases.
As of Friday, 82 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers had been fully vaccinated, while 91 per cent had received at least one dose.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2021.View link »