Atlantic premiers hesitant to commit to regional travel bubble
Would provide opportunity to travel in region without need to self-isolate
Most Atlantic premiers appear hesitant to allow travel within their four provinces, despite P.E.I. Premier Dennis King's recent suggestion that a travel bubble could be set up as early as the beginning of July.
Following discussions with other premiers in the region on Wednesday night, King said there "seem[ed] to be agreement" that a bubble could be established, "if the epidemiology continues on the trajectory that it's on."
P.E.I. has had no new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, and Newfoundland and Labrador has had just one. Nova Scotia has had nine, while New Brunswick is dealing with an outbreak in the Campbellton area, with four new cases announced on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 29.
King's counterparts have expressed more caution.
"Our first priority is to ease restrictions in our own province," Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday in a statement, "including expanding the family bubble."
"Nova Scotia is open to an Atlantic bubble, but we cannot put a date on it until we are sure our case numbers are low and the cases in other provinces remain low."
Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball told reporters: "There's no date yet."
"Premier King, yesterday, raised this issue with all the Atlantic provinces, but first and foremost, any final decision that would be made on this would be have to be made in consultation with our public health officials," Ball said Thursday.
"Now is not the time for us, we've got to be able to make sure we can travel safely around Newfoundland and Labrador first," he said.
The premiers say they want to provide safe and efficient travel in the region without the need to self-isolate, which would allow for tourism and family visits.
"We agreed over the next few weeks to have our officials work together," New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Thursday afternoon.
"The discussion went well and the idea of having at least a three-way bubble … the goal was that we are working toward having that access sometime this summer. Whether that can be early July or mid-July or whatever is yet to be determined."
King said bubbling would mean Islanders could travel to other Atlantic provinces without having to self-isolate for 14 days.
But they would still have to adhere to all public health directives in the province they are visiting, which include measures such as physical distancing and handwashing.
"It won't be a situation where the cars will run as freely as ever across the bridge," said King.
He said it would have a positive effect on the business and tourism sectors and "continue our plan back to some kind of new normal."
King reiterated that any decision will be based on public health policy, not the lobbying efforts of any one group or organization.
"I don't feel pressure from any one side of this or the other," he said.
The Atlantic premiers met to prepare for a much wider discussion with all of Canada's premiers and the prime minister Thursday night.
King said he didn't anticipate that bubble being expanded to Quebec and Ontario, two important regions for the P.E.I.'s tourism sector, before the end of the year.
"If we get to a point where we could do an Atlantic bubble that would pretty much be the extent of the bubble for this year," he said.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
- Practise physical distancing.
- More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Sara Fraser