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Day 1 at Level 1: New Brunswick businesses optimistic on path to full reopening

Click to play video: 'Businesses react as New Brunswick enters Level 1 of winter action plan' Businesses react as New Brunswick enters Level 1 of winter action plan
WATCH: It’s Day 1 at Level 1 of New Brunswick’s winter action plan to curb the spread of COVID-19. It’s the least restrictive level of the action plan, and as Travis Fortnum reports, it’s good news for businesses – Feb 19, 2022

New Brunswick moved to the least-restrictive level of its COVID-19  Winter Alert Plan Friday night – with the hope of a full reopening once again on the horizon.

In a release issued Friday, Premier Blaine Higgs called the move to Level 1 “a major step towards reducing and eliminating restrictions as we prepare to ease out of our winter plan over the coming weeks.”

He previously said he hopes the province can lift restrictions entirely at the end of March.

Read more: New Brunswick to move to least restrictive COVID-19 alert level Friday night

Among the changes with the move to Level 1, many businesses can now operate at full capacity for the first time since late-December.

However, many people are struggling to keep track of the province’s restriction rollercoaster.

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“It’s been very blurry,” says Matt Forgie, owner of ForFitness and Athletics Performance Centre in Rothesay.

Forgie says they’ll probably keep class sizes small, having seen benefits to that in the months it’s been necessary.

Overall, it’s been an interesting time to be a business owner, he says.

Read more: N.B. not-for-profit sports organizations get access to funding

“We’ve learned to diversify, we’ve learned to go online, we’ve learned to make on-demand videos,” says Forgie. “We’ve taken it as an opportunity to learn. And it’s been fun, really.”

Masks and proof of vaccination will still be required at ForFitness, as well as most other indoor spaces, but Forgie and staff say the move is a promising one.

“I think most people are pretty hopeful and feeling like it’s time,” says manager Emma Hicks.

There has been some skepticism in the days since officials announced the move toward eased restrictions on Feb. 9. Premier Higgs facing questions over whether this move was influenced by anti-mandate protests – he says it wasn’t.

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Majority of Canadians want anti-mandate protestors to go home now: poll – Feb 14, 2022

Even Health Minister Dorothy Shephard seems to have questioned the step to Level 1.

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Read more: COVID-19: New Brunswick reports 1 death, 3 more people on ventilators

“Level 1 is not without considerations,” she said in a scrum Wednesday.

“Public Health has – and believe me, I’ve challenged just to make sure – Public Health has confidentially conveyed to us that going to Level 1 is the right thing to do.”

Level 1 means:

  • No limit on household contacts
  • Informal gatherings can have up to 20 people indoors and as many as 50 outdoors
  • Restaurants can operate at full capacity, with patrons required to show proof of full vaccination or medical exemption
  • Business and retail can operate at full capacity with two metres of social distancing
  • Gyms can operate at full capacity with proof of vaccination
  • Salons and spas can operate at full capacity with physical distancing or proof of vaccination required
  • Entertainment centres can operate at full capacity with proof of full vaccination
  • Faith venues can operate at full capacity if they ask for proof of vaccination or medical exemption, otherwise, they must operate at 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing
  • All sports and recreation are permitted
  • Masks remain mandatory in indoor public places and, if physical distancing can’t be maintained, outdoors as well

At Level 1, New Brunswick will no longer update its COVID-19 dashboard on weekends, meaning case counts, deaths and hospitalization numbers won’t be updated until Tuesday after Family Day.

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