Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer is implementing new restrictions for the St. John’s area, after the province announced 30 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
All of Tuesday’s cases are in the Eastern Health region. It’s the second-highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic, just under the 32 cases announced March 25 during the province’s first wave.
“We can now say with certainty that we have community transmission in the metro region, and we will inevitably see more cases in the coming days,” said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, at a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.
There are 57 active cases in the province, the highest total since late March.
Effective midnight, the St. John’s metro area will be under special health measures for the next two weeks, a so-called “circuit breaker” to try to prevent the virus’s spread.
Fitzgerald said gatherings may not exceed 20 people for that time period. All group activities are suspended, while all gyms and recreational facilities will close. Retail stores and malls can remain open, as well as personal service and animal grooming businesses.
Restaurants can remain open, at half capacity, but bars and cinemas will close, she said.
Families must limit contact to within their own households, Fitzgerald said.
“Right now, it appears that most of the cases are within one school,” she said, adding that the virus is largely spreading through close contacts and recreational activities. She confirmed there are no positive cases connected to other schools yet.
It’s also not clear to health officials how the outbreak started.
“At this time we don’t have any information on the source,” Fitzgerald said. “As you can imagine, with the number of contacts that public health is having to deal with at this time, that our focus is really on contact tracing and finding as many cases as we can.”
The update comes a day after Fitzgerald confirmed an outbreak in the St. John’s region, including a cluster of students infected at Mount Pearl Senior High School.
On Monday, there were 11 new confirmed cases, five of them students at the school. Fitzgerald said Monday that the number of people in isolation is in the “high hundreds,” at least, and contact tracing and testing are underway.
Mount Pearl Senior High has been closed, with classes moving online.
Meanwhile, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District also announced late Monday night that high schools in the metro area have been closed for at least a couple of days.
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