New Brunswick declares state of emergency

New Brunswick has declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday.

It comes as the number of confirmed cases has jumped to seven, and the number of probable cases stands at four.

The government did not make the decision lightly but was compelled to take this “extraordinary measure” because too many people are still not following the advice of public health officials, Higgs told reporters during the daily briefing in Fredericton.

“These are unprecedented actions, but these are necessary as we are in unprecedented times.”

Here is a roundup of other developments.

If patients without a family doctor have health issues unrelated to COVID-19, they should contact a local walk-in clinic where possible, the New Brunswick Medical Society says.

This could be difficult to navigate, since some walk-in clinics are open and others have closed because of the outbreak. The closures include the Mountain Road After Hours Medical Clinic in Moncton and the Millidgeville Medical Clinic in Saint John.

At the New Maryland After Hours Clinic near Fredericton, patients are being encouraged to call the clinic instead of waiting in groups to see a doctor.

On Wednesday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, encouraged patients who don’t have family doctors but need prescription renewals or help unrelated to the coronavirus to call 811.

It wasn’t clear from Russell’s answer how the 811 service would get people help from doctors but she did say the province was working on the issue with the New Brunswick Medical Society.

According to the New Brunswick Medical Society website, as of July 2018, more than  44,000 New Brunswickers were without a family doctor.

Meanwhile, three new presumptive cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed, bringing the province’s total to 11 confirmed or presumptive cases, the chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced Wednesday.

According to the Public Health website, there have been 370 tests done so far with negative results.

Provincial parks close

Following government’s decision to shut down all non-essential services, all provincial parks are closed until further notice.

This closure includes the three provincial parks which are usually open during the winter months: Mount Carleton, Mactaquac and Sugarloaf.

Service NB could reopen

Service New Brunswick is working on a plan to reopen some centres, said Valerie Kilfoil, a spokesperson for the government branch.

Service New Brunswick is also working with the Department of Public Safety to address services that can’t be done online because certain documentation must be presented in person.

Service New Brunswick announced earlier this week that it was closing all centres until March 23.

Why Saint John Transit is offering free fare

Saint John Transit will not be collecting fares from passengers taking the bus.

Riding the bus in Saint John is free for the time being. Saint John Transit has asked passengers to enter through the back doors of buses to avoid contact with drivers. Passengers with disabilities can still board through the front doors.

Trish Ellsworth, chair of the Saint John transit and Parking Commission, said public transit is for people who cannot and do not have an option to work from home, like health care providers and grocery store workers.

“This is not now a free–for–all to go on a coffee date with some friends, as our government officials have been saying for a number of days now. We should be isolating and we should be staying home if at all possible.”

Air Canada suspends flights

Air Canada has postponed a number of domestic flights that will affect four New Brunswick airports until April 30.

The suspended flights include:

  • Flights between Ottawa and Moncton starting March 23.
  • Flights between Saint John and Toronto starting March 23.
  • Flights between Montreal and Bathurst starting March 23.
  • Flights between Fredericton and Toronto starting April 1.

Saint John Airport director of commercial development, Jacques Fournier said even before the announcement, the number of travellers on departure flights had already fallen off dramatically.

“There’s a lot of people arriving, and not a whole lot leaving, said Fournier. “Obviously everybody is scrambling to get back home. We believe that April will obviously be very slow until the curve [of Covid-19 cases] can be settled down a little bit.”


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