Household Bubbles: What they are and why New Brunswick is using them in response to COVID-19

New Brunswick revealed a new system on Friday that officials hope will allow residents a chance to socialize and interact with individuals outside their immediate household as the coronavirus crisis continues.

The two-household bubble system is one of the first steps taken in the province to loosen restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 in New Brunswick.

READ MORE: How New Brunswick’s four-step plan to recover from COVID-19 works

Until now, New Brunswickers were supposed to self-isolate and only interact with members of their immediate household.

But under the new system households may now choose to spend time with one other household, assuming that both households agree to the arrangement.

It will effectively create a joined family unit that will allow physical distancing requirements to be dropped between them.

“This would allow you to visit, have a meal and enjoy the company of another household bubble,” a guidance document issued by the Government of New Brunswick reads.

However, the two households must not have any close contact with anyone else.

The two households will have an “exclusive relationship” and are not supposed to join with more than one household or bubble.

New Brunswick health officials stressed that households are not interchangeable and that once a decision to join two household bubbles is made, they are stuck together.

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The two-household restriction will be loosened when the provincial government decides to move to public health’s yellow phase. That will make way for households to see close friends and family.

New Brunswick is recommending that those who work or volunteer in settings where close contact is not avoidable be extra vigilant in their handwashing and symptom screening between the two bubbles.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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