Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia premier says cars with U.S. plates won't be turned away at border

Premier Stephen McNeil says his government is looking to improve tracking and monitoring of people entering the province who are required to self-isolate, but they will not prevent entry to American vehicles.

Stephen McNeil says efforts being made to increase and improve tracking and monitoring

Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotians have done a good job flattening the COVID-19 curve. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia's premier says his government is looking to improve tracking and monitoring of people entering the province who are required to self-isolate, but they will not prevent entry to American vehicles.

"We have never closed our border at any point," Stephen McNeil told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday.

With the Atlantic bubble now in effect, people living in the four Atlantic provinces are able to freely move among them without having to self-isolate for 14 days. That requirement remains in place for travellers entering from anywhere else.

The land border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to non-essential travel, however, exemptions are in place.

Although immediate family of Canadian citizens or permanent residents may now be allowed to cross, people entering Canada must self-isolate for 14 days or risk penalties. Those foreign nationals must also be free of COVID-19 or any related symptoms of the disease. 

McNeil has said he's hoping Nova Scotia can open more freely to the rest of Canada later this month. Despite higher COVID-19 case numbers in places such as Quebec and Ontario, the premier told reporters those numbers are headed in the right direction.

Numbers are headed in a very different direction in many parts of the United States however, where many officials didn't impose the kind of public health measures used in Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada to flatten the curve. America is now seeing about 50,000 new cases a day.

Ferry cancelled due to risk concerns

McNeil said travel from the U.S. remains a concern and his government would work with public health officials to look at how they can better monitor and enforce the 14-day self-isolation requirement, as well as track people who enter Nova Scotia.

Concern about COVID-19 rates in the U.S. was at the heart of the government's decision last week to cancel this year's season for the ferry that sails between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine.

But even with those concerns, McNeil said cars with American plates attempting to enter Nova Scotia will be allowed to enter.

"We will not be turning people away," he said. "We will be following to make sure they follow the public health protocols of self-isolation and that may require a change of our protocols in terms of how we follow up with them."

Expecting people to follow the rules

McNeil said many Americans who travel here own property and can self-isolate before being able to spend the rest of their time moving around freely. Public Health officials have been clear at this point about what needs to be done to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 introduction and spread, he said.

"We know there are certain steps you need to follow when it comes to this disease. We expect people to follow it," McNel said. 

A government spokesperson said in a statement that "the four Atlantic provinces are working together to quickly have a tracking process in place." Although staff will remain at the border to maintain information pickets, Nova Scotia is working within existing resources to staff entry points, according to the statement.

Tory Leader Tim Houston said what's happening with the disease in America is concerning and he understands why people might be anxious when they see cars with U.S. licence plates, but he said the best response is having robust management of the border.

Houston said a good step would be for travellers to be required to provide their name, where they're going and how they can be contacted.

"That in and of itself will trigger some better behaviour, but we can still follow up if we know where they're at."

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Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to make clear that the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel, with limited exceptions.
    Jul 03, 2020 10:33 AM AT

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