ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine passport came into effect Friday as health authorities identified another cluster of COVID-19 cases in the province.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the latest cluster has been detected in the southern Newfoundland community of Marystown and involves 25 cases — 22 of them children under the age of 12.
The region is now under heightened public health restrictions and officials have declared an outbreak at a local school for kindergarten to Grade 7 and suspended in-person learning.
"We do not know the source of the outbreak," Fitzgerald said. "However, as with all outbreaks, public health officials are working diligently on the investigation and contact tracing."
The province reported 30 new infections Friday, for a total of 62 active reported COVID-19 cases across the province.
Newfoundland and Labrador has been hit hard by the fourth wave of the pandemic and officials have battled several clusters in the past month, including one at a long-term care home and another at a church in central Newfoundland.
The number of COVID-19-related deaths in the province more than doubled since late September, and now sits at 15.
The previous outbreaks have been in regions with low vaccination rates, but Fitzgerald said nearly 83 per cent of eligible residents in the Marystown area are fully immunized. That's not far off the provincial vaccination rate of 85 per cent.
The government is hoping those figures improve with the provincial vaccine passport now in effect. The passport must be used at all non-essential businesses and events like bars, restaurants and performance spaces. Churches have the option of using the passport or operating at half their capacities, with other restrictions in place.
The province is also requiring government employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 17, though the rule does not apply to members of the legislature because of parliamentary privilege, said spokesperson Bobbi Russell.
Instead, the leader of the provincial House of Assembly put forth a motion this week that would require all members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Dec. 17, just like the rest of the province's public servants.
The motion has not yet been called on for debate, Russell said.
However, officials from all thee parties confirmed their members are fully vaccinated in emails this week to The Canadian Press.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press