All of New Brunswick’s health zones will be moving to Level 3 of the COVID-19 alert system as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday.
Premier Blaine Higgs said in Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing the lockdown will last for 16 days, or until Jan. 30.
According to the provincial website, Level 3 restrictions include the following:
- Single-household bubble
- No indoor public gatherings
- Shutting down gyms, spas and entertainment centres
- Restaurants can operate on take-out and delivery only
- Retail: encouraged use of contactless curbside pickup and/or designate one person from the household to go shopping if feasible to reduce contacts
- Faith venues can hold outdoor, virtual or in-car services only
- Organized sports not permitted
- Organized sports and all other organized activities are not permitted with people outside a single-household bubble
- Outdoor exercise or activities like skiing, skating or snowmobiling are permitted, as long as Public Health measures are followed and you are within your single-household bubble
- Lodges and other facilities that support outdoor sport must not exceed 50 per cent capacity and must not permit food or drink to be consumed indoors
The province also says at-home learning will be extended for another week. Students are set to return to classrooms on Jan. 31.
“Think of it as short term pain for long term gain,” said Higgs.
“Moving to level 3 was never something I wanted to do and I really hate taking the step.”
Higgs said there are currently 104 New Brunswickers hospitalized with COVID-19, with 9 in ICU, and 386 medical staff are isolating after testing positive.
Moving to Level 3, he said, is necessary at this point.
“We need our children back in school and sports. We need our businesses open and for business owners to be able to make a living,” he said.
Higgs also said the province is ready to do what it takes compel New Brunswickers to get vaccinated.
“Life will get increasingly uncomfortable and difficult for those who are able to get vaccinated but choose not to be.”
The province is asking people who have experience giving vaccines, such as retired nurses, dentists and medical staff from other countries now living in New Brunswick, to step forward.
“It’ll be a tough two weeks but we need to do this,” said Higgs, adding that after going through extensive data from public health, there was no other choice.
“Level 3 measure are a last result and a step we must take to protect our essential services and our hospitals.”
The critical issue, Higgs said, is reducing the number of hospitalizations.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said in the briefing projections show that if the province did nothing, case numbers will continue to rise and by the end of the month there could be more than 200 people in hospitals with COVID-19.
“We are facing a critical situation and we need serious measures to address it,” said Russell.
She said that while numbers will continue to rise even with restrictions, “but how steep that rise will be will depend on everyone following public health measures.”
Russell said the Omicron variant is much more transmissible and infects faster than previous COVID-19 variants. She said those at the greatest risk are people who are unvaccinated or haven’t received their second or booster dose.
“Please don’t look for loopholes,” said Russell.
“It is no exaggeration to say this is a matter of life and death.”
Russell said we all must act to limit the impact of the crisis, adding that nobody wants to see people die, who could’ve been saved if their hospital had beds and staff to treat them.