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‘A lot of happy faces’ with loosened COVID-19 restrictions in Edmundston region

People in the Edmundston region are breathing a sigh of relief now that they’re back in the orange phase of New Brunswick’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

The area has spent about half of 2021 in either the red alert level, or most recently, under lockdown restrictions.

With the move to orange taking effect overnight Tuesday, some people can now reunite, and many businesses can reopen, after the past month of tight restrictions.

“A lot of happy faces, I’ve got to say,” Acting Mayor Eric Marquis says. “A lot of smiles. People are happy to see each other. Everybody’s back to work in their workplace.”

“It’s pretty awesome to be finally moving ahead,” he says.

Céline Parent, the co-owner of Moonshin’hers gastro pub, says they were expecting two weeks of the red phase prior to the jump to the less-restrictive orange level. But they’re pleased to be able to reopen the dining room.

“The press conference was not even finished and people were already sending requests to have reservations for this weekend,” she says. “It’s a relief, to be honest.”

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She says all of their 15 employees are returning. During the lockdown, staff had been trimmed to just two people for takeout orders.

With case numbers generally trending down in the region, with exception of a special care home outbreak, the province moved the region directly from lockdown to the orange phase of recovery.

That means household bubbles can include 10 other local people, and retail businesses, gyms and unregulated health professionals can open.

Faith gatherings can also happen with restrictions.

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The change is good for businesses as well as being a boost for morale.

“The feeling is just great,” Parent says. “Just, for example, going to the gym this morning.”

While still bearing the brunt of the province’s total active cases, only two COVID-19 cases were reported in the Edmundston region Wednesday.

But it’s not all good news.

Among the 24 new cases announced in the province Tuesday, 21 are connected to the Pavillion Beau-Lieu’s outbreak; a special care home in Grand Falls.

Meanwhile, the Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce is calling on all locals to follow public health protocols to support businesses.

“Because we don’t want to go back, I mean we can’t afford — the businesses can’t afford — to go back into one more lockdown,” executive director Cathy Pelletier says. “A lot of them are… struggling; they’re really struggling.”

She’s hopeful provincial borders with neighbouring Quebec regions can open up this summer to help make up for all the closures.

Click to play video: Can fully vaccinated Canadians go maskless? Doctor answers your COVID questions

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