The provincial COVID-19 update on Thursday, February 24 significantly changed the direction New Brunswick is heading with the pandemic.
The announcement comes at the end of a momentous spike of the Omicron variant across the province and widespread anti-mandate sentiments across the country. Premier Blaine Higgs announced the two important changes in mandates to come on February 28 and March 14.
Proof of vaccination
The first major change in COVID-19 policies goes into effect on February 28, when the need to show proof of vaccination will end in places like entertainment centres, restaurants, gyms, and salons. The measure was put in effect in the fall of 2021 which was met with backlash from business owners in the province. Level One measures are still in effect following the shift in proof of vaccine on Monday, meaning masking is still mandatory.
Workplace mandates on vaccinations
Vaccine mandates for provincial government employees are still being reviewed by the government. The mandates were put in place in the fall as well, which was met with harsh criticism, leading to some provincial employees getting put on unpaid leave. Higgs said that vaccine mandates were being reviewed for existing employees but would remain for new employees.
All restrictions removed
Effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 14, all remaining public health restrictions will be removed. There will be no limits on gatherings and masking indoors and outdoors will not be required. Masking will be required for visitors in all Horizon Health and Vitalité Health Networks for the time being, as they are still in level “red” of their COVID levels.
Isolation periods will no longer be required. The provincial government encourages people in vulnerable sectors like long-term care facilities, shelters, and correctional facilities to continue to self-isolate for a period of five days if they test positive for COVID-19. Masks are also recommended to be worn in vulnerable settings. COVID-19 restrictions in public schools will be removed as well.
New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, noted that “…while we are at a point where we can lift the enforced measures, people still need to take their own protective measures, especially if they are at higher risk due to age, being immunocompromised, or not being vaccinated”.
GNB will no longer be reporting COVID-19 data through its COVID-19 online dashboard but will be updating its website weekly.
Other provinces lifting mandates
Since the beginning of 2022, provinces across Canada have started to lift their COVID-19 restrictions, and Higgs says that it’s demonstrated that lifting mandates can be done. Higgs said that New Brunswick can find “…ways to do that like every other province and country and it’s important we do so.” It comes as provinces like Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
GNB acknowledges that moving away from restrictions can be difficult for some.
Dr. Jennifer Russell highlights that “…it’s important to understand that as a society we are well equipped to move to the next phase of our pandemic journey. We have a high rate of vaccination, particularly in the older age groups that have not proven most vulnerable to the virus”.
Although many things remain unclear as to what this means for the university campus, as of Monday, February 28, proof of vaccination is not required for entry to most places and events on campus. Proof of vaccination will not be required for the Commons, Whitebone Pizzeria, meal hall, gyms, or any campus events including guest lectures, workshops, and sporting events.
COVID-19 rapid testing will continue, meaning that all staff, faculty, and students who are not fully vaccinated with two shots must comply with regular rapid testing. Moreover, masking will remain in place for the time being.
GNB and UNB continue to encourage New Brunswickers to receive their booster shots. For more information on how to get a booster, click here.