Nfld. & Labrador

Premiers push reopening of Atlantic bubble to May 3

The premiers will meet during the last week of April to review the status of COVID-19 outbreaks in Atlantic Canada.

Premiers will meet during the last week of April to review the status of COVID-19 outbreaks

A testing clinic in Corner Brook welcomed appointments Monday, following a small increase in COVID-19 cases in the area. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The premiers of Canada's four Atlantic provinces have delayed the reopening of the Atlantic bubble by two weeks.

In a joint statement Tuesday evening, the premiers said the bubble, which allows residents to travel between provinces without self-isolation requirements, is being postponed because of a surge of COVID-19 cases in parts of Atlantic Canada, and the emergence of more transmissible  variants.

"This delay will support a continued focus on addressing local outbreaks and the rollout of vaccination programs across the region," says the statement, from the Council of Atlantic Premiers.

The Atlantic premiers will meet again during the last week of April to review the status of outbreaks in the region and to determine if a further delay is required. 

Cold water started to be poured on the reopening earlier Tuesday by Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King and Nova Scotia Premier Ian Rankin, with the latter reintroducing border restrictions with New Brunswick and saying the Atlantic bubble was "unlikely" to begin Monday as planned.

King said he harboured "great optimism" for the Atlantic bubble weeks ago, as local outbreaks remained under control, but called the latest numbers on variant infection rates and hospitalizations "worrisome."

"The landscape is very different today than it was four weeks ago," King said. 

"Things aren't going our way. The situation is difficult, and I would say that the Atlantic bubble opening on April 19 would be precarious.… All signs are pointing to the fact that we will need to delay that." 

Earlier Tuesday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19, in the Western Health region, a female under 20 years old who is a close contact of a previously known case.

The province's caseload is now 11, with no recoveries since Monday's update, according to a Department of Health update.

P.E.I. has six total cases as of Tuesday, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have 54 and 145, respectively.

In a statement to CBC News, Premier Andrew Furey said it was best to delay the reopening given current COVID-19 caseloads.

"I remain hopeful that we will be able to reopen it early next month, as soon as it is safe. The safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is my main priority," he said.

Furey, along with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald and Health Minister John Haggie, are scheduled to deliver their weekly COVID-19 update on Wednesday at 12 p.m. NT, two hours earlier than usual. A government service for the late Prince Philip is being held at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. NT.

Western Health monitoring spate of cases

Closer to home, a small outbreak on Newfoundland's west coast continues.

As of Tuesday, there were nine cases in the Western Health region, where the health authority called for random testing among Corner Brook-area residents this week after a small rise in infections. The virus had largely spared Newfoundland's west coast over the course of the pandemic.

The area has accumulated eight cases since Friday, and as of Tuesday, health officials are still trying to find the source of one of them. 

A case reported in the Eastern Health region on Thursday also remains under investigation.

Clinics will continue to swab residents until Wednesday, according to Western Health, while health-care workers look for signs of community transmission.

More than 100,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have now received at least one dose of vaccine. Health Department data shows 144,700 shots been shipped to the province since December, with 29,140 additional doses expected to arrive this week.

To date, 127,265 people have been tested, including 333 in the last day.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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