Nova Scotia

Cape Breton bubble? Some islanders say it's the best way to keep COVID out

After a spike in cases in the Halifax region, municipal leaders and First Nation chiefs will discuss potential travel restrictions to and from the island.

'Mainland is almost like a different province,' says one Sydney-area resident

The creation of a Cape Breton bubble is being discussed as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in mainland Nova Scotia. Some Cape Bretoners say the Canso Causeway should implement travel restrictions. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in mainland Nova Scotia, some Cape Bretoners are calling for their own island bubble.

Amanda McDougall, the new mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, was among the first to raise the possibility of a Cape Breton bubble in hopes of keeping the island COVID-free.

The mayor doesn't have the authority to close the Canso Causeway, but that hasn't stopped residents from hoping the emerald green link into Cape Breton will be closed to visitors.

"It's a great way to isolate the population," said Robert Edwards of Sydney, who is in favour of travel restrictions if it means slowing the spread of COVID.

As of Thursday, the province was reporting 102 active cases with the vast majority in the Halifax area. 

'I think it should be kept separate'

Daniel MacNeil, a Sydney-area resident, said he's in favour of an island bubble if it means keeping vulnerable people safe.

"Mainland is almost like a different province," he said Thursday during a visit to Sydney's downtown.

"I think it should be kept separate from here for at least a small amount of time. I wouldn't even bother thinking about going [to Halifax] any time soon ... it's scary."

But not everyone agrees with shutting down the only land connection to the rest of Nova Scotia — at least not at this point. 

Sydney doctor weighs in

Sydney physician Dr. Mohammed Farooq said he doesn't believe more restrictions are necessary unless a positive case of COVID turns up in Cape Breton.

He pointed out that Nova Scotians are already required to stick to a social group of 10 people or less — a restriction meant to slow the spread of COVID. In the Halifax area and parts of Hants County, that gathering limit is even smaller.

The warden of Richmond County, Amanda Mombourquette, said the possibility of a Cape Breton bubble has its merits. But she also said isolating the island could create challenges. 

"It's complicated because we have an economic zone that exists around the Strait area," Mombourquette said.

"There is a natural flow of people that occurs around the quad-counties and across the causeway for work and family reasons."

Mombourquette said her priority is not only to protect the health and safety of residents, but also their livelihoods.

Municipal leaders and First Nation chiefs in Cape Breton are expected to gather virtually for an online meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss potential travel restrictions to and from the island.

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