HALIFAX — New Brunswick is vaulting ahead of its Atlantic Canadian counterparts and opening up to some travellers from the rest of Canada, as COVID-19 recedes across the region.
Premier Blaine Higgs announced Wednesday the change would occur at midnight as the province moves into the second phase of its reopening plan, just one day after implementing Phase 1 of the strategy.
"We feel that we are at a level here in New Brunswick of vaccinations, that our population is protected," Higgs told reporters during a briefing.
He said the province had reached its goal of having 20 per cent of people 65 or older vaccinated with two doses of a COVID vaccine in order to trigger Phase 2.
On Tuesday, New Brunswick opened its borders to residents from P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador after hitting its 75 per cent first-dose vaccination goal for those 12 years of age and over.
With the changes, the province will open to travellers from across Nova Scotia after initially opening to those in border communities on Tuesday. Regional travellers will also not have to self-isolate or test for the virus, while travel registration will no longer be required.
Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who have received a first dose will be allowed into the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven't had a shot will be allowed in, but will have to isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.
Other changes allow restaurants, gyms and salons to operate at full capacity as long as customer contact lists are kept.
Officials reported three new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 58 active cases — the lowest active case count since March.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the chief medical officer of health reported one new case of novel coronavirus during a briefing and said the province now has 35 active cases ahead of its June 23 target to permit travellers from the other three Atlantic provinces.
Officials said the case count in the province had dropped to less than five per 100,000 over the last week.
"All indications are that the third wave is subsiding and this reduces the risk for everyone," said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. "Public health applies restrictions proportionate to the level of risk and we are easing restrictions as we see improvements in epidemiology and as more people get vaccinated."
Fitzgerald said people entering the province won't have to self-isolate, but will have to fill out a travel form before arrival and show identification at their point of entry to prove they are a resident of the Atlantic region.
She said the province remains on track to reopen to the rest of Canada on July 1 partly due to vaccination rates that as of Monday indicated that 72 per cent of people eligible have had at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine.
Nova Scotia, which is also opening to regional travel along with Prince Edward Island on June 23, moved into Phase 2 of its five-step reopening plan on Tuesday, as health officials reported eight new cases of COVID-19 and a total of 92 active cases.
The changes allow such things as indoor dining at restaurants and bars, a 50 per cent customer capacity for retail stores and increased gathering limits.
Natasha Prall, co-owner of Fresh From The Oven, a restaurant in Greenwood, N.S., said her business has been struggling over the course of the recent lockdown and has gotten by with takeout and delivery service.
Under the initial phase of the province's reopening plan, restaurants were allowed to open patios to customers, but Prall's restaurant didn't have one and eventually resorted to setting up three picnic tables.
"But even with the picnic tables in place, we really didn't have much business," she said in an interview. "With Phase 2, we are hoping to go back to normal or something along those lines."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press