New Brunswick is easing COVID-19 restrictions in two regions of the province where infection rates had been high.
The Edmundston region, which has been under lockdown for the last 15 days, will move to the red pandemic-alert level at 11:59 p.m. Monday. Moncton, meanwhile, will move from red to the lower, orange level.
“This does not mean that the virus has been eradicated. This does not mean that people can cast aside their masks and go back to life as it was before the pandemic or before these outbreaks,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference Monday.
“What it means is that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in these zones is less than it was two weeks ago, but it is not zero. The risks are still there. The risks of the variants are still there,” She urged the public to continue to follow public health guidance.
Under the red level, residents can spend time only within their single household bubble. Gyms, salons and entertainment venues must remain closed and restaurants can only offer drive-thru and delivery options.
Under the orange level, households can also spend time with a list of 10 regular contacts. Gyms, salons and entertainment venues can reopen. Restaurants can open their dining rooms but must keep a list of patrons in the event contact tracing is required.
The province reported two new cases of COVID-19 Monday – the lowest daily case count since New Year’s Day.
Officials said there are 182 active reported cases in the province, and seven people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care.
“Case numbers are now trending in the right direction, but we must all remain vigilant, particularly with the arrival of the new variants of COVID-19. They are so much more dangerous,” Russell said.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said it’s important that people remain vigilant by wearing masks and following other health orders.
Last week, health officials urged New Brunswickers to avoid large gatherings to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl game. Shephard said it appears people heeded the advice.
Meanwhile, Russell said it’s the time of the year when many New Brunswickers would normally be planning trips south for the March Break, but this year people need to stay put. She said people should not even be moving around within the province.
“Our advice to New Brunswickers is to enjoy the March Break holiday, but do it close to home,” she said.
The large number of COVID-19 infections in some places makes it more likely for new variants of the virus to emerge. Science Reporter Ivan Semeniuk explains how vaccines may not be as effective against these new strains, making it a race to control and track the spread of variants before they become a dangerous new outbreak.
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