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Newfoundland and Labrador’s government said Friday it will lift its mask mandate next week, while COVID-19 infections continued to climb in New Brunswick, one week after that province ended all its public health orders.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health, said the province’s low case count coupled with its high vaccination rate support the move away from masks – despite what she said is a growing fourth wave in other parts of the country driven by the Delta variant.

“The epidemiology elsewhere really influences some of those other special measures orders we have, like our travel restrictions,” she told reporters Friday. “I anticipate that people will continue to use the masks, and we recommend that people do. It’s just the question of whether it meets that legal test of requirement.”

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Masks will no longer be mandatory in most places beginning 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, but they will still be required in health facilities and in congregate living centres for seniors, Fitzgerald said. Limits on indoor gatherings will rise to 500 people as long as social distancing is maintained.

The province reported two new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, both related to international travel. As of Thursday, more than 60 per cent of residents aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated and more than 84 per cent had received at least one dose, Fitzgerald said.

Those are good figures, she said, adding that she would like to see them higher. To that end, health officials will continue setting up pop-up, walk-in vaccination clinics across the province.

Like the rest of Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is seeing some of its lowest vaccination rates among people in their 20s. This gap is of particular concern in New Brunswick, where cases are rising in the Moncton, N.B., region.

Health officials in that province reported six new cases of COVID-19 Friday, all in the Moncton area. New Brunswick has 55 active reported infections. Officials have reported 38 cases in Moncton since the province lifted all pandemic-related restrictions on July 30.

Officials didn’t provide an age breakdown of Friday’s cases, but as of Thursday, 23 infections in the Moncton region involved people in their 20s. Online government data indicates vaccination rates in the province are lowest among that age group, with just over 70 per cent of eligible people in their 20s having had a first dose, compared with the provincial average of nearly 83 per cent.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said Thursday the cluster in the Moncton area involved unvaccinated young people, adding that his office was keeping an eye on the situation.

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Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 Friday and 13 active reported infections. More than 76 per cent of all Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to government data.

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