Reunion in April? N.L. premier says Atlantic bubble could be back
'I'm quite hopeful we can get there in the timelines that they are discussing,' says Premier Andrew Furey
There may be growing chatter about a Maritimes-only bubble, but don't count Newfoundland and Labrador out.
Premier Andrew Furey said he will be at a virtual table on Wednesday night along with Premiers Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia's Iain Rankin and Dennis King from P.E.I. to talk about re-starting the Atlantic bubble.
"I'm quite hopeful we can get there in the timelines that they are discussing," Furey told reporters during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
"Our case numbers are going down, our positivity rates are lower than some of the other provinces within the Atlantic region. So I'm quite hopeful to have a positive outcome, in conjunction of course with the public health officers," Furey said.
So, does he believe N.L. could join that bubble next month?
"I do," he replied.
The Atlantic bubble allowed residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. to travel relatively freely across each other's borders without quarantine requirements.
Late April floated for possible resumption
Newfoundland and Labrador has only recently said it could make a case for consideration to join the 2021 Atlantic bubble.
The province saw its second wave of the virus peak with a record-high 434 active cases on Feb. 20. After a swift lockdown ordered by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the number of active cases has dropped consistently. As of Wednesday, the province has only 36 active cases.
It was about a week ago when rumblings started about an inter-provincial bubble making a comeback.
Last week, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he and Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin had discussed a new bubble.
"We're both thinking that if things stay as they are and continue to improve in our respective provinces, that we'd be looking at some time maybe in late April," Higgs said last week.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Higgs said in a written statement: "We cannot confirm any date for the possible reopening of the Atlantic bubble. Dates are being considered but that will first be discussed among the Atlantic Premiers and our own COVID Cabinet Committee and decided by cabinet."
Higgs also told CBC New Brunswick last week that since Newfoundland and Labrador is in the midst of an election, he expected public health officials would likely be on the call rather than the premier.
But Furey said he will, indeed, be taking part.
The Atlantic bubble came into effect on July 3, 2020.
It offered a boost — albeit some said a small one — to the beleaguered tourism industry in all four provinces and also gave people a chance to travel after months of severe restriction, and lockdowns.
The bubble was burst on Nov. 23 when both N.L. and P.E.I pulled out, citing rising COVID-19 case counts within the Atlantic region.
"The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride … but the situation has changed," said Furey at the time.
Furey reiterated on Wednesday he's in favour of the bubble becoming reality once again "provided, of course, if the science supports it and it's safe to do so."
With files from CBC New Brunswick