'It's nice to see everyone's faces again:' N.B. no longer under mandatory order, despite concerns from experts

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The Boyce Farmer’s Market, a Fredericton favourite, was a busy spot Saturday morning hours after New Brunswick’s mandatory order was lifted, and with it, all of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Capacity limits no longer apply, and neither do mandatory masks. Many were embracing it.

"This is our happy place. We usually come all the time, and for the longest time it was just a weird, uncomfortable vibe," said Tyler Wood.

"It’s just amazing to see everyone coming out, seeing the big crowds and seeing people hugging and smiling and just really enjoy the day. It’s just amazing to be back and feel normal."

The end of the mandatory order also means anyone can visit the province, including Canadians who are unvaccinated. The border checks at the Quebec-New Brunswick border are no longer staffed by the department of public safety.

People can also choose to wear a mask.

Brian MacDonald decided to continue wearing one on his market visit "just to err on the side of caution."

"I kind of have mixed feelings about New Brunswick opening up to the extent that it is with the Delta variant," he said. "I hope that the masklessness isn’t a disaster."

Experts are also expressing their concerns with the decision, warning that it will lead to an increase in cases.

"It does seem to be a little quick," said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist in Halifax.

"It is a bit of an experiment, not as much as Alberta, but a bit of an experiment that didn’t need to happen as quickly as it has. Do I anticipate a massive number of hospitalizations all of a sudden? No, but are there going to be some people who get sick and maybe very sick, who didn’t need to? That’s almost a certainty over the next number of weeks. I’m not certain that that’s okay at this point."

But Premier Blaine Higgs says he’s confident and comfortable with the decision, even though the province hasn’t reached its 75 per cent vaccination target yet.

Higgs also said his government has made the vaccines very accessible, with mobile and after-hours clinics across the province.

"There are those that have no real reason to be unvaccinated and have chosen not to be, and yes, they’re at risk,” he said.

"They will continue to be at risk, so their fate is in their hands in that sense because the opportunity is there. There’s nothing more I can do. We don’t have a mandatory vaccination policy and I don’t see that coming anytime soon."

Higgs said he’ll be using his own discretion on wearing a mask.

The end of the mandatory order also effectively stops the need for the all-party COVID-19 cabinet committee.

Since last March, the group saw New Brunswick's four political parties sit at the same table, making pandemic-related decisions together.

 

Higgs said meetings could be scheduled if necessary in the future, but for now, no further meetings are planned.