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

New Brunswick is the first province in Canada to begin relaxing the restrictions it put in place to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On April 24, Premier Blaine Higgs was joined by his political rivals: Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers, Green Party Leader David Coon and People’s Alliance of New Brunswick Leader Kris Austin, in announcing the immediate reduction of safety restrictions.

It was another act of cross-party support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen Higgs invite the fellow party leaders to form an all-party cabinet committee.

The decision to relax the restrictions came as New Brunswick experienced a sixth straight day of no new cases.

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports no new cases of COVID-19 for the seventh straight day

“Welcome to the new normal,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, on Friday after announcing the province has not had a new case since April 18.

That ‘new normal’ will be guided by four colour-coded public health alert levels: Red, Orange, Yellow and Green.

As of April 24, the province is in transition between the Red and Orange levels, with the goal of allowing New Brunswickers to enjoy the province’s wide-open outdoor spaces.

New Brunswick released its phased approach to re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Brunswick released its phased approach to re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government of New Brunswick – HO

Throughout all stages the province is counting on physical distancing, physical barriers, handwashing and face masks to be part of the new normal.

The phased approach will also allow the province to re-implement restrictions if needed, such as if three unlinked community cases are detected in six days.

Here’s a breakdown of how the levels will work:

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Red – Flattening the curve

The red level of public health measures is the strictest of controls the province has against the spread of COVID-19.

It is what the province had been experiencing since New Brunswick declared a state of emergency.

The goal is to flatten the curve of the number of cases in the province and containing the virus as quickly as possible.

READ MORE: Canada coronavirus tracker 

Strict physical distancing of 2 metres is expected during the red phase with face coverings strongly recommended for New Brunswickers when they go out in public.

Gatherings are strictly prohibited and there are strict controls on which businesses can open and how many people can be in stores.

Daycare and school are restricted to virtual learning during this phase for everyone except essential workers.

There are also strict controls on New Brunswick’s borders during the red phase, with an order for anyone arriving in the province to quarantine for 14 days.

Orange – progressively loosening of restrictions

The Orange phase is what New Brunswick is hoping to implement two-to-four weeks after initially relaxing restrictions on April 24.

But that is contingent on whether or not the curve remains flat during that time period.

As part of the Orange phase, New Brunswick households can choose to spend time with one other household if both households agree to the arrangement.

READ MORE: N.B. to allow outdoor activities, family ‘bubbles’ in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions

The practice, which New Brunswick is calling a “two-household bubble” is not interchangeable and once a household chooses another household to be in their bubble, the two households are stuck together.

The Orange phase will also allow for elective surgeries and priority health services to resume.

Golf courses will be allowed to open while keeping their clubhouses and restaurants closed, fishing and hunting seasons will go forward and the use of outdoor spaces will be permitted.

During the Orange stage, carpools will be allowed. However, there will be a limit of two people per vehicle and the passenger must ride in the back seat.

Post-secondary programs that have hands-on requirements will be permitted to operate with strict controls.

For New Brunswickers of faith, outdoor or “drive-in” religious meetings will be allowed to occur.

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Yellow – Continued loosening of restrictions

The goal of the Yellow phase is to further increase the reopening of social and economic settings after the ability to control the transmission of COVID-19 in the province has been demonstrated.

The details of this phase are still being worked out and there’s no time frame for when it will be implemented as of April 25.

During the Yellow phase, hairstylists, dentists, massage therapists, chiropractors and gyms could also open.

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Gatherings would be limited to 50 people or less while basic controls would be used for most businesses.

Officials say that in this phase, physical distancing restrictions would be loosened to allow for households to see close friends and family.

This phase would also allow for the reopening of New Brunswick’s school system with strict controls. The same would apply to daycare services.

Face coverings would continue to be required in this phase and provincial borders would also be strictly controlled.

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Green – the new normal

New Brunswick officials say that the Green phase will likely only be implemented after a vaccine for COVID-19 is created and made widely available in the province.

The development of a vaccine for the disease could take between 12 and 18 months.

Face coverings would be required only when ill and physical distancing measures would be lifted.

The Green phase would see restrictions on businesses lifted. New Brunswickers would also be allowed to visit vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

New Brunswick says that the province’s borders would be reopened in this phase.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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