The border patrol station in front of the international bridge in Madawaska. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

HOULTON, Maine — After a long period of success in preventing any rapid spread of COVID-19, the virus seems to have finally made landfall in New Brunswick.

In response to a rapid rise of cases over the previous month in the Canadian province, the New Brunswick government declared that in certain health zones of the province — including two that are located along the border with Maine — people must limit their private contact to their own households for two weeks beginning Friday.

Those households may include families that live together, as well as caregivers and other people living outside the household who require support.

Although border entry for fully vaccinated Americans is still allowed by the Canadian Border Services Agency, travel out of the provincial border health zones, dubbed “circuit breaker regions,” is restricted. Border health zones include the Madawaska-Edmundston and border towns north of the Bridgewater-Centreville crossings.

“Travel to or from circuit breaker regions is restricted, except for those who must travel for essential reasons, including work, health services, child custody, child care or post-secondary education, or travel to events where proof of vaccination is required,” said Jean Bertin, the communications officer of the government of New Brunswick.

The measures will affect the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, which occurs three days after the restrictions will take effect. The government has advised all New Brunswick residents to hold festivities within their single households. Public places like restaurants and movie theaters remain open, but must require proof of vaccination for people to enter them.

The number of active cases in New Brunswick was 775 as of Wednesday, including 71 cases reported that day. After having some of the lowest case counts in North America, the province has seen a large increase in cases over the past month. The province also announced another death from the virus in the province on Wednesday, a person in their 90s, who died in the Moncton area.

“Hearing of another death in our province from this virus is heartbreaking, and my sympathies are extended to the family,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health for New Brunswick. “The measures we have put in place are aimed at reducing the spread, and we need every person in New Brunswick to follow them to combat the virus. Please do your part, get vaccinated and follow the Public Health measures.”  

Despite the large number of cases over the past month, New Brunswick case counts remain much lower than in neighboring Maine, which as of Wednesday had more than 6,000 active cases. The percentage of the population fully vaccinated in New Brunswick is 71 percent, compared with 69 percent in Maine.