FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick government declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon, ordering most private businesses to close their doors to the public, effective immediately.
“[The order] compels businesses, their employees and members of the public to act in the interest of flattening the curve of this outbreak,” said Premier Blaine Biggs in a press conference.
The state of emergency declared under section 12 of the Emergency Measures Act limits the activities of most public-facing businesses, with exceptions for certain key services.
“All retail businesses must cease to admit the public but may continue with online or delivery sales. Exceptions will be made for the following: grocery stores, pharmacies, stores operated by NB Liquor and CannabisNB; automotive and repair businesses; post offices; gas stations [and] hardware stores.
“Food and beverage serving businesses will only offer take-out and delivery services. All bars and other establishments operating under the Liquor Control Act will close immediately.
Other businesses that can remain open to the public include financial and lending institutions, convenience stores, and animal and fish feed providers.
The province also supplied an exhaustive list of public business and facilities that need to stop admitting members of the public: swimming pools, spas, saunas, waterparks, gymnasiums, yoga studios, dance studios, rinks and arenas, tennis courts, soccer and baseball fields, climbing walls, escape rooms, ski hills, golf courses, arcades, amusement centres, pool halls, bowling alleys, casinos, cinemas, libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, barbers, hairstylists, esthetics service providers, sugar bush operations, and theatres or other live performance venues will stop admitting members of the public.
Higgs said businesses that don’t interact with the public can keep operating but need to take the necessary precautions to keep employees safe and help stop the spread of the COVID-19.
“Residents who are not essential workers need to stay home,” he said. “Businesses that are not public-facing can continue to operate but they need to do so by protecting their workforce and falling all compliance rules around distancing. They need to do so to ensure that the spread of this virus is not allowed.”
In declaring a state of emergency, Higgs says people need to understand the importance of limiting their contact with people outside of their households.
“You should only leave the house for groceries and other essential items. If you must interact with people outside your household, maintain a distance of six feet,” he said.
“Before this was a recommendation, today it’s a requirement. I feel strongly that the decision to declare a state of emergency is the best way to protect all New Brunswickers and avoid the dire situations that we’re seeing in other places around the world.”
The federal government has announced measures to help workers impacted by the coronavirus. Higgs says the province will also do what it can to relieve financial pressures. As part of the state of emergency, the province has suspended the authority of landlords to evict tenants for the non-payment of rent through May 31.
He said the province will continue to evaluate what additional measures are required to protect the financial security of affected residents.
“I know that many residents are experiencing unexpected economic impacts because due to the nature of their jobs they may not have the option of working from home,” said Higgs.