Atlantic bubble 'not there yet,' says Dwight Ball
N.L. premier says people need to travel safely within the province first
Premier Dwight Ball says it's still too early to announce an "Atlantic bubble," which would allow people to travel freely among the four Atlantic provinces without a 14-day self isolation.
Ball's remarks contrast with those Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King, who said Wednesday after discussions with other Atlantic premiers that people should be able to travel throughout Atlantic Canada by July.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's open to a bubble but he can't name a date yet, as that province's first priority is easing restrictions, including expanding family bubbles. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday a bubble is on their radar, but he also hasn't named a date.
"Now is not the time for us," Ball said outside the House of Assembly on Thursday afternoon.
Ball said any decision about bubbling with other provinces will be made in consultation with public health officials.
"We've got to be able to make sure we can travel safely around Newfoundland and Labrador first," he said.
Ball says COVID-19 is still active in many parts of the country.
"We recognize that if it is to come back into Newfoundland and Labrador in large numbers it would likely be through traveling," he said.
He pointed to an outbreak in Campbellton, N.B., which has been blamed on travel to Quebec.
"If we were to open it up and travelers were to come in and freely move around from other provinces we would expose some of the most vulnerable people in our society to positive cases of COVID," he said.
Impact on travel ban
Ball also says the provinces need to examine the impact bubbling will have on their travel bans.
While the premier says there's "great co-operation" among the Atlantic provinces, he also says people here have close ties with other provinces, as well.
"We have a lot of family, we have a lot of friends that live in places like Alberta. And the No. 1 destination for Canadians traveling to Newfoundland and Labrador would be from Ontario," said Ball.
Ball said it's important for business owners that the province keeps COVID-19 at bay, as tourism has been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown and travel ban. A setback could lead to more lockdowns, he said, or prohibit travel in certain regions of the province.
Ball noted the provinces are at different levels of reopening, and New Brunswick residents can't move among regions of that province right now. He also said no checklist or conditions have established to guide the creation of an Atlantic bubble.
"The level of the conversation has not even reached there, so we are far from a decision on this," he said.
With files from Anthony Germain