P.E.I. government stepping up COVID-19 screening, enforcement measures at Confederation Bridge
‘Don’t come if it’s not essential. You are going to be turned away’
The government of P.E.I. is heightening COVID-19 screening and enforcement measures at the Confederation Bridge starting Wednesday evening, said Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers.
"Don't come if it's not essential. You are going to be turned away," he said.
Myers said the checkpoints would turn away all non-essential travellers, but essential workers commuting to P.E.I., essential workers in trade and transportation sectors who are moving goods, Islanders returning from medical appointments, students returning home or individuals on compassionate grounds would be allowed through.
Myers said the new enhanced measures will include two screening protocols.
The first will be conducted by law enforcement officials who will discern whether travellers should be turned away or passed through, he said.
Once people are identified as essential and have passed through they will undergo a second screening where public health officers will do a health check, he said.
'Strongest measure we've had in place yet'
Myers said the new measures will come into effect beginning Wednesday evening and have been implemented to support the chief public health officer's orders.
He said New Brunswick will be working to ensure the same enforcement is mirrored on its side of the bridge for those trying to leave P.E.I.
"This is the strongest measure we've had in place yet and I think we're going to show people that we're serious about this," Myers said.
He also noted that the province is continuing to work to address Islanders' access to liquor stores.
He said one liquor store in O'Leary was reopened with limited operating hours Wednesday. He also said the reopening of a location in Souris is planned for Thursday.
Both stores will be operating from Monday to Saturday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
At this time, Myers said P.E.I. Cannabis will not be reopening its doors, however it will continue to be available for purchase online.
A new COVID-19 income support fund has been established to help Islanders experiencing a loss of income ahead of the arrival of other federal benefits and will come as a one-time lump sum of $750, said Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay.
Islanders who, as of March 13, have lost their job, had their employment insurance benefits expire, are unable to return to work, have applied for benefits through EI or through the Canada emergency response benefit may be eligible.
The funding from the program will be distributed through Skills PEI.
MacKay said Islanders can access the application form for the new benefits after 5 p.m. Wednesday, on the government's COVID-19 website.
Money provided so far
MacKay said the province's emergency income relief fund has approved 1,000 applications and has provided $850,000 to self-employed Islanders.
Through the emergency worker relief assistance program, designed for Island workers who have had a reduction in hours because of the pandemic, MacKay said 173 applications have been approved to help 880 employees and has provided $150,000.
I continue to promise you, you have our support and together we'll get through this.— Matthew MacKay, minister of economic growth
The province's emergency working capital financing geared toward small businesses has approved 70 loans, totalling $3.1 million, while its employee gift card program has received 1,108 applications from Island employers and 7,643 gift cards have gone out to employees who have been laid off.
MacKay noted the province's new commercial lease rent deferral program has seen 40 inquiries and two applications.
He also said the province is looking to roll out a separate fund for students affected by COVID-19 with more details to come over the next day or two.
MacKay said Islanders can expect an announcement on summer job applications in the coming days.
"We know these are tough times but I continue to promise you, you have our support and together we'll get through this," he said.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Malcolm Campbell