P.E.I. Buddhist monks, nuns create bubble within the bubble amid COVID-19

Buddhist monks on P.E.I. are taking extra precautions against COVID-19 by creating their own bubbles at their campuses.

'As long as it takes to keep going and help with the pandemic … we will do what we need to do'

P.E.I. monks wave to those inside their bubble at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society's campus in Heatherdale. (Steve Bruce/CBC News)

Buddhist monks on P.E.I. are taking extra precautions against COVID-19 by creating their own bubbles at their campuses.

There are about 500 Buddhist monks and students who have formed bubbles at their two campuses in Eastern P.E.I. The Island's 500 Buddhist nuns have also done the same. 

"With so many monks and students, we needed to have a strict policy to maintain the safety of not just ourselves, but the Island community at large as well," said Venerable Kelvin Lin, a monk and community liaison at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society's Heatherdale campus.

"You have 200 people here. If somebody does get sick, it could have a huge impact on the whole Island."

30-day quarantine

According to Lin, anyone who does leave the bubble will have to quarantine for a month. 

"Instead of 14 days, we go the extra mile and go with 30 days, just to be extra safe," he said.

"We dot all our i's and cross all our t's." 

'It does impact our outside field trips,' says Venerable Kelvin Lin. 'But for us at this point of time, it's better to stay safe than to put people in a tough position.' (Steve Bruce/CBC News)

Lin said the bubble within the bubble was all set up by April. He said food is sterilized at the front gate by members living in a separate bubble, and despite having very limited contact with people in the community, those inside still keep gatherings to under 50 people, social distancing is in place and masks are worn if needed. 

"The goal is to be on the safer side," he said, "to make sure we're doing the best we can do."

So far about 30 monks have left, mostly for medical appointments, said Lin. The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society provided them with isolation housing and computers so they could continue with their studies online. 

Venerable Eli Kelly had previously lived inside the bubble. He said while the policy might sound extreme, it didn't change his life as much as one might think.

"We lead a very simple life," he said. 

"It's a lifestyle where we choose to give up some of the leisures that we used to do — going to the movies, hanging out with friends."

'As long as it takes'

But, Kelly said it was difficult for him to not see his family during his time inside.

"After being kind of in a bubble or quarantine for so long, when you get out, it is refreshing."

'For the safety of the students in the monastery and the safety of my family, I though it's probably best that everyone stays put,' says Venerable Eli Kelly. (Steve Bruce/CBC News)

As the pandemic continues, Lin said there is no set date for when the bubble policy will end. And while it has changed the way some things are done, he said they will keep it going as long as needed. 

"We really think P.E.I. has done an outstanding job," said Lin. 

"As long as it takes to keep going and help with the pandemic, keep it from spreading, keep it from impacting society or impacting P.E.I., then we will do what we need to do."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Steve Bruce


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