APEC calls for balance of economic, social and health costs of pandemic
‘We’ve felt the consequences of isolation’
An Atlantic bubble could balance economic, social and health costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, and provide future benefits.
In a commentary released Wednesday morning, APEC president and CEO David Chaundy argues economic and social costs of the pandemic need more consideration in the coming months.
"We've felt the consequences of isolation, being stuck inside, and lack of human contact on our physical, mental and emotional health," wrote Chaundy.
"Maintaining excessively strict measures will compound these costs every month they remain in place."
Chaundy said he has felt this impact personally.
"I have aging in-laws in New Brunswick that we have not been able to visit in three months. Even if we were allowed to visit, a two- or three-day weekend trip is impossible because of the two week self-isolation currently required," he said.
He said he knows there are many other families in similar situations.
Chaundy noted the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Atlantic Canada is trailing off.
P.E.I. has had no new cases in the last two weeks and Newfoundland and Labrador just one. Nova Scotia has had nine. New Brunswick is dealing with an outbreak in the Campbellton area with 24 active cases, and one travel-related in Moncton.
Nova Scotia is cautioning, however, that it still has community spread.
Each province has adopted a careful, step-by-step approach to pandemic management, Chaundy said, and he argued this could be done regionally, rather than province by province.
Provinces depend on one another
APEC estimates regional growth has shrunk by 20 per cent this quarter.
Chaundy said trade among the Atlantic provinces accounts for about 30 per cent of total interprovincial trading by the region. There are about 2,700 companies that operate in more than one Atlantic province, which are now having to work with the different pandemic restrictions in each province.
The tourism sector has an even stronger level of interdependence. For Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, visitors from Atlantic Canada make up about half of their business. About a third of tourists going to New Brunswick are from within the region.
Chaundy suggested the step-by-step approach currently underway in each separate province could be mirrored by a regional approach. The region could, for example, start with allowing interprovincial travel for family visits, then allow travel for work purposes. If that goes well, they could open up for vacation travel.
"Creating and managing a regional bubble would require the agreement of our four premiers and greater collaboration and co-ordination by our provincial health officials," said Chaundy.
"This is not a bad thing, especially now that COVID-19 is under control in each province. Sharing data, making collective decisions and managing new outbreaks as a region would help us balance the social and economic costs with the health risks."
Making consistent regulations would be particularly helpful for companies that are operating across the region, he said.