UK COVID variant identified in province, shift back to alert level 5

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In an emergency media availability late Friday evening, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced that the UK variant of COVID-19, B117, is present in the province and is the cause of the rapid spread of the virus through the St. John’s-Metro region. This involves the following restrictions:

Public Spaces and Gatherings:

  • Gatherings of more than 5 people are prohibited.
  • Funerals, wakes and visitations are prohibited.
  • Burials and weddings are limited to no more than 5 people, including the officiant.

Recreational Activities:

  • Campsites in municipal and privately owned parks are closed.
  • Playground equipment in municipal parks are closed.
  • Gym and fitness facilities are closed, including yoga studios, tennis and squash facilities, and arenas.
  • Dance studios and performance spaces are closed.
  • Outdoor activities, including walking, hiking, or riding your bike, are encouraged as long as physical distancing can be maintained and you are not required to self-isolate for any reason.

Health care services:

  • Private health care clinics are closed, except those of physicians and nurse practitioners. Closed clinics can offer urgent and emergent care, and virtual options can be offered for non-urgent care.
  • Visitor restrictions in health care are in place.
  • Orders for long term care, personal care homes, and assisted living facilities are in place.
  • Regional health authorities have postponed or cancelled some health care services.

Businesses and Services:

  • Retail stores that do not provide services essential to life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals are closed to in-person service, but can offer online/telephone sales with delivery or curbside pick-up options.
  • Retail stores that are permitted to remain open are not permitted to sell scratch or break open lotto tickets in store.
  • Restaurants are closed for in-person dining (take-out, delivery and drive-thru options are still permitted).
  • Bars and lounges are closed.
  • Cinemas are closed.
  • Personal service establishments, including spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons, are closed.

Further special measures orders are expected, as well as a statement from Elections NL on the state of the provincial election scheduled for Saturday, Feb 13. Previously, in-person voting was suspended on the Avalon peninsula due to the outbreak. The news comes hours after 50 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in the province earlier Friday afternoon.

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