P.E.I. leaving Atlantic bubble for at least 2 weeks

Premier Dennis King has announced that P.E.I. is 'suspending our participation in the Atlantic bubble,' meaning those arriving on the Island from the other Atlantic provinces will now have to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Province has 1 new case of COVID-19 Monday, Dr. Heather Morrison confirms

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Dr. Heather Morrison answer questions about a temporary restriction on Atlantic bubble traffic. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Premier Dennis King has announced that P.E.I. is "suspending our participation in the Atlantic bubble," meaning those arriving on the Island from the other Atlantic provinces will now have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The announcement was made during an unscheduled COVID-19 briefing Monday morning, after a weekend rise in cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

King said that starting 12:01 a.m. Tuesday — just after midnight Monday — P.E.I. is suspending all non-essential travel to and from Prince Edward Island for two weeks.

"This is an extra layer of caution," said King, who spoke on Sunday with his fellow Atlantic premiers. "It is our hope that we can break the transmission chain."

He said there could be some flexibility for Islanders who are outside the province now trying to return, given the short notice.

King said his government will re-evaluate the situation after the two-week period ends on Dec. 7.

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King's announcement came on the heels of word from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey that he too "has made the tough decision to make a circuit break. People arriving from within the Atlantic bubble will have to self-isolate for 14 days." 

The new rules go into effect on Wednesday in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Premier Dennis King on why P.E.I. bailed on the bubble — for now

3 years ago
Duration 5:35
'It was best to do this as a preemptive measure to try and get ahead of this the best we can, so we can continue to enjoy the ordinary-type life we have here on P.E.I.,' says Premier Dennis King.

Since July 3, residents of the four Atlantic provinces have been able to travel relatively freely across each other's borders without quarantining. That freedom ends with Monday's pair of announcements — at least for now. 

King said he hopes P.E.I.'s departure from the bubble is temporary, adding that when it was announced back in June, the goal was to eventually expand it to include people from other parts of Canada where community spread was low or non-existent. 

One new case confirmed

After King spoke about P.E.I.'s new rules, Dr. Heather Morrison confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on the Island, a woman in her 40s who travelled from outside the Atlantic bubble.

That person is self-isolating and contact tracing is underway. 

It's actually likely that P.E.I. will have cases.— Dr. Heather Morrison

"Over the last number of days, it has become apparent that our neighbours in Atlantic Canada, especially Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, are experiencing a second wave," said Morrison. "It's actually likely that P.E.I. will have cases.

"I'm concerned it may already be here with some people."

Return to applying for entry

Morrison said those coming to the province from the other three Atlantic provinces will now once again need to apply for entry and students who return to P.E.I. will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

An electron microscope image captured this year shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML/Associated Press)

Any staff working in long-term care who leave the Island will not be eligible to work-isolate upon returning. In a news release issued late Monday, Morrison added: "Out of an abundance of caution, partners in care who have returned from out-of-province travel in the last week must not visit their loved one in long-term care or community care until they have been in PEI for 14 days."

People may continue to travel off-Island for medical appointments, and compassionate and custody-related travel can continue. But there will no longer be any interprovincial sports tournaments. 

"I urge all Islanders to keep their social circles small," said Morrison. "We know that COVID-19 moves as we move."

For anyone who has returned from Nova Scotia or New Brunswick in the past week, Morrison said contacts should be limited, testing should be arranged if symptoms appear, and a mask should be worn at all times — including when in the presence of other people outdoors.

Students can attend school

As for children who are returning from those provinces, Morrison said while they can continue to go to school, they should not attend functions like sports events or birthday parties. 

"The changes announced today are not forever, just for the time being.… Together, we can do it," she said. 

On the Island, Morrison is reminding Islanders to stay home if they are sick and to continue following public health guidelines. Putting these new travel restrictions in place should allow people to continue to being able to go out fairly freely and shop locally leading up to Christmas, she added.

"This is our hope: that we can maintain things as best we can within this province. But certainly it's going to be a challenge," said Morrison.

In a subsequent interview with CBC: News Compass host Louise Martin, King wouldn't rule out further restrictions if necessary to keep Islanders safe.

"I think we always have to look at the what-ifs, and we're prepared to make the decisions we need to make," he said.

"I hope today's decision indicates to Islanders how serious we are."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Carolyn Ryan, Nicola MacLeod and Shane Ross