FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following update on COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) was issued today by Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health:

Staying home, and maintaining social distance, can and will save lives.

In an effort to allow 811 health-care professionals to support more people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, a new online tool to assess symptoms is available. Using this tool will help New Brunswickers determine when they should call the 811 line, which will reduce the volume of calls we have seen from people seeking basic information.

Maintaining our blood supply is vital to our health-care system in ordinary circumstances, and these are not ordinary circumstances. Canada Blood Services has alerted us to an urgent need for new donations to maintain supply. Additional screening and social distancing measures are in place, and it is safe to donate blood. This is an important way to make a difference at this critical time.

No new presumptive cases of COVID-19 were reported in the province today. There are still 11 cases in New Brunswick: seven confirmed and four presumptive.

Premier Blaine Higgs acknowledged front-line workers who are vital to the province’s supply chain and continue to do their jobs during these challenging times.

“Right now, across this province, people are working hard to ensure that our lives function in as normal a manner as is possible,” said Higgs. “I want to take a moment to thank all of these dedicated workers on behalf of all New Brunswickers. It is not easy to go to work when many are being told to stay home. I appreciate that you continue to do so.”

Other information related to the response to the virus includes:

Travellers

Canadians returning home from other countries must self-isolate for 14 days. If they are returning by air, they should arrange to have a family member drop off a vehicle at the airport if possible. They must not go to the grocery store when they return, but instead arrange to have someone pick up groceries before they arrive home – and continue to do so during the 14 days of isolation.

Employers and employees

Employers and employees have responsibilities under the state of emergency. Health and safety at work is especially important in these times. Employers need to take precautionary measures to reduce the level of exposure: practice good workplace hygiene; and allow workers to work remotely if possible.

In addition to the recommendations put in place, Public Health is preparing a questionnaire that employers can use to screen workers, customers and other members of the public before they enter. Anyone with questions or concerns about employers who are not complying with these recommendations should contact WorkSafeNB.

Business

Declaring a state of emergency in our province has resulted in a lot of calls about what can stay open and what must close. Businesses that are open must take precautions to keep their workers safe. This includes social distancing, providing a clean working environment, and any other precautions needed to keep workers healthy and safe.

An interpretative guideline to provide clarification of the Declaration of a State of Emergency and Mandatory Order and how it is applied to various businesses and functions is available online. Businesses with questions should contact: nav@navnb.ca, call the Business Navigator line at 1-833-799-7966, or consult the COVID-19 page specifically for businesses.

WorkSafeNB

WorkSafeNB is deferring premiums for businesses for three months.

Business property taxes

Though business property taxes must be paid by May 31, late penalties will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to see if the penalty can be waived due to undue financial challenges, such as having to close a business due to COVID-19.

Critical sector adjustment committees

The Department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour is creating critical sector adjustment committees to help minimize the impact felt by any closures and is working with companies to mitigate impacts felt in affected regions of the province.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

The province is working with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure any issues businesses may face during this time are addressed.

Service New Brunswick

Service New Brunswick provides more than 400 services to the public on behalf of other government departments and agencies. The majority of these can be done online and through Teleservices, however, some essential services cannot be done online or over the phone.

On Monday, March 23, a limited number of Service New Brunswick centres will reopen for essential transactions only – that cannot be done online or by phone. Customers will be screened before entering and if their transaction is not essential, or can be done online or by phone, they will not be permitted to enter. The list of essential services that will be offered at the service centres is listed on the Service New Brunswick website.

Student loans

Earlier this week, the federal government announced a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada student loans. This will also be the case for provincial student loans.

Social Development

Social workers continue to provide essential services to protect children and adults. The department is taking all precautions to ensure the safety of its employees and the public. The public should continue to inform Social Development of any situation that causes concern for the safety of children or adults at 1-800-442-9799.

Federal measures

The federal government has announced temporary income support for workers and parents without paid sick leave as well as longer-term income support for workers. Low- and modest-income families which may require additional financial help may apply for a one-time special payment through a GST credit. Families with children will be eligible for increased Canada Child Benefit payment amounts.

For more information on these federal measures:

Canada Revenue Agency Accounts and Payments (individuals): 1-800-959-8281 (English); 1-800-959-7383 (French).

Canada Revenue Agency Accounts and Payments (business): 1-800-959-5525 (English); 1-800-959-7775 (French).

Child Benefit and GST credit: 1-800-387-1193 (English); 1-800-387-1194 (French).

Employment Insurance (EI): To apply for EI benefits, visit their website. After that, individuals may apply to have the one-week waiting period waived by calling the government's toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725, or teletypewriter at 1-800-529-3742.

Emergency care benefit and emergency support benefit: Both benefit plans will be open for application in April, through the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Business financing / liquidity: Finance Canada general enquiries: 1-613-369-3710; fin.financepublic-financepublique.fin@canada.ca.

  • Export Development Canada general line: 1-800-229-0575.
  • Business Development Bank of Canada general line: 1-877-232-2269; info@bdc.ca.