Atlantic bubble goal 'mid-April,' King says after premiers talk
Freer travel conditional on regional COVID-19 cases remaining low
- BREAKING: A memo from the Atlantic premiers says the hope for an April 19 return to the bubble.
Editor's note: This story was posted before a 1 p.m. AT announcement confirming April 19 as the planned reopening date. Another breaking-news story will be posted shortly.
Premiers in Atlantic Canada will be ready to make an announcement on Thursday about reopening the Atlantic bubble, says P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.
Travel across provincial borders in the region has been subject to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions since the end of November. The four premiers met virtually Wednesday evening, and loosening those restrictions was a major topic of discussion.
"We had been throwing around mid April as a goal," King told CBC News after that meeting.
"We will have a more formal announcement via communique [Thursday] jointly. But we all agreed to go back and have one last conversation with our public health offices to make sure we have everything we need in place to make this decision public."
Before the meeting New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the premiers were talking about April 19.
King said Thursday's communique, expected in the early afternoon, would include details of any parameters connected to travel around Atlantic Canada.
Any announced date will be contingent on potential new outbreaks of COVID-19, but King said with more Atlantic Canadians being vaccinated every week serious outbreaks will become less likely. That does not mean, he added, that it won't happen.
"Isn't that the big question about COVID, though, is that things just seem like they're under control and then they aren't," he said.
While public health has been the number one consideration during the pandemic across the region and that has served Atlantic Canada well, King said, it is not the only consideration. The premiers also need to consider the economy and the mental health of citizens.
For business in particular, he said, setting a date is important so plans can be made. King stressed, however, that he has not been feeling pressure from the business community.
"They've been nothing but patient and understanding," he said.
"I've never once felt pressure, to be honest. I think like most Islanders, the business community has been wanting us to be safe, to be healthy."
Opening to rest of Canada
King said he hopes the region will be able to open up to the rest of Canada some time this summer.
That opening could come with some restrictions.
"We still need to determine at the national table, sort of, what that looks like," he said.
"How we travel, what is required to travel and what documentation, if any, they will need. Will masking still need to take place? All of these different factors."
But King believes the Island will be able to open up to more tourism this summer, though he cautioned a full opening is unlikely.
Prince Edward Island has diagnosed 144 cases of COVID-19 since the Island's first case back in March of 2020.
The last new case was reported on Tuesday, with the province saying only four cases remained active.
New case numbers have been dropping in the other three Atlantic provinces as well in recent weeks.
More from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Travis Kingdon