Visitors from across Canada welcomed with open arms — and gift cards

Family and friends were reunited on P.E.I. Sunday as the province lifted restrictions on fully vaccinated people from across Canada.

Some haven't seen their families in person in more than a year

Paige MacLean, right, hugs her family after arriving at the airport on a flight from Toronto on Sunday. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Paige MacLean came through the arrivals door at the Charlottetown Airport on Sunday and ran straight into the arms of her family waiting outside.

It was the first time she had seen them in almost a year. Back then, when she arrived home from Toronto, she had to isolate for 14 days.

Not this time.

P.E.I. removed the requirement on Sunday for fully vaccinated people arriving with a P.E.I. Pass from anywhere in Canada.

"It's amazing," she said.

"Last time I was here they had, like, a countdown sign that said 'Hugs In …' and then it was a countdown to 14 days. This time ... I just got to run right up and hug my family. So it was really nice."

MacLean says she's happy she won't have to self-isolate after arriving on P.E.I. (Tony Davis/CBC)

MacLean was one of dozens of people who were greeted at the airport by friends and family. P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, who were handing out Food Island gift cards. 

King said Sunday is another big milestone on the journey out of COVID-19.

"Usually if the premier is waiting at the airport, there's some dignitary coming here, perhaps the Queen herself. And now we're treating all of these visitors back to P.E.I. like royalty, and rightfully so. It's been a long stretch. It's exciting."

According to the province, 178,636 people have applied for a P.E.I. Pass since they became available last month.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King greets visitors at Charlottetown Airport. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Holly Whittle is one of them. She arrived Sunday to visit her daughter, Morgan Gonidis, a nurse who moved to Summerside from Ontario in May 2020. They hadn't seen each other in person in more than a year.

"I miss her so much so I'm so happy to see her," Whittle said. "We did a lot of video chatting, but it's not the same."

After a year of video chatting, Holly Whittle, right, and her daughter Morgan Gonidis got to see each other in person again. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Whittle, who had never been to P.E.I. before, said she was eager to see her daughter's new house, and where she works.

Gonidis said she has a week of activities planned — the beach, Anne of Green Gables, Greenwich trail, and lots of seafood meals.

"I've been telling everyone all week," Gonidis said.

There were plenty of Ontario and Quebec licence plates at the Confederation Bridge on Sunday, as well.

Mike Ferrier and his wife came to P.E.I. from Toronto as part of their 30th anniversary celebration. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Mike Ferrier and his wife arrived from Toronto to celebrate their 30th anniversary with a road trip around Atlantic Canada.

He said it was nice to have some freedom after living through pandemic restrictions in Ontario for several months.

"It feels so good just to be out of the house just to travel is fantastic," he said. "We're going to take all day to explore P.E.I. and tomorrow morning we're on our way to Nova Scotia."

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With files from Tony Davis