FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government announced today that, based upon recommendations by Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, to address the impact of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), all non-essential government services will be shut down starting Tuesday, March 17, until further notice.

“We are taking action to implement the recommendations we have received from the experts,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “We know that the best and safest place for our workers and their children is at home.”

Russell recommended today that the provincial government focus its efforts on providing critical services and said that all employees should work from home wherever feasible.

Based upon this recommendation, only those public-sector workers who work in critical functions or areas that support critical functions will remain on the job. They may work on site or from home, depending on the nature of their job. Those workers sent home will remain on the payroll.

Higgs said employees sent home are required to remain on standby to be available to be deployed to help in critical service areas, either because critical staff are sick or because additional staff is needed.

In response to today’s recommendation by Russell to close daycares, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Education has developed a response plan to ensure child care is provided to essential workers across the province.

Information for essential service workers will be available through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Parent Portal or by calling 1-833-221-9339.

“We continue to ask New Brunswickers to come together and support one another,” Higgs said. “Families, neighbours and friends who are not in high-risk categories are encouraged to work together to ensure child care options are available for our essential services workers.”

Higgs also announced that the all-party cabinet committee on COVID-19 has decided that only a quorum of 15 members will meet at the legislative assembly on Tuesday, March 17, to limit the potential spread of illness.

New Brunswickers are reminded to limit visits to nursing homes to help protect the most vulnerable residents. Those over 70 years old are at the highest risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. These residents are advised to stay at home and limit contact with others as much as possible.