P.E.I. Premier Q&A: King on COVID-19's effect on the Island

Premier Dennis King has been managing the response to COVID-19 all from his kitchen table. He is self-isolating after a trip to Boston.

'If this inches on for several months I think everybody is going to be in a really difficult situation'

P.E.I. Premier says there is 'no playbook' for pandemic

4 years ago
Duration 11:12
CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin speaks with Dennis King about the province's handling of COVID-19.

Premier Dennis King been a major part of the provincial response to COVID-19, and has been managing it from his kitchen table as he is self-isolating after a trip to Boston.

He joined CBC Radio: Island Morning host Mitch Cormier on the phone Friday morning for an update.

Here is that conversation, edited for clarity and length.

Q: Are you satisfied with the way Islanders have been responding to the directions of the chief health officer?

I think I would say that for the large majority that we're very satisfied. I do think there's been some blips and some confusion, but I think we all accept the fact that we're in very confusing times here. I do think that at our very root, Islanders care so much about each other. And as this becomes more and more real I think Islanders are really digging in.

Q: You mentioned blips — what could we do better?

When the announcement came down that we were moving to government essential service and it was learned that the liquor store and cannabis stores were going to close, I think we saw the social distancing and all of the advisories from Dr. Morrison go out the window. Obviously if we had to do over again we would try to do it differently.

Provincially-run liquor stores closed down Tuesday at 2 p.m. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Q: Why was the decision made to give Islanders that 21-hour heads up?

It was obviously something of high priority and concern for Islanders so maybe in hindsight we should have thought about it a little bit differently, and maybe if we had a do-over we'd probably try to find a way to make the news a little bit less sudden.

Q: We are short nurses, we are short doctors at the best of times. Is our system ready with enough healthcare workers? Do we have the space, do we have the equipment?

We feel like we're in good shape here right now. The call went out to some retired health-care professionals. That's to assist with what we believe will be an increased burden on the health-care system and also to help as a stopgap for those health-care professionals who may have been in a province who are self-isolating. 

While the pressures will continue to grow we feel like we're in a decent spot here, but obviously deeply concerned as this stretches on.

UPEI has closed down everything but essential services on campus. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Q: P.E.I. Health Minister James Aylward called on retired health-care workers to come back for a few shifts. What's the plan to reintroduce these retired workers into a system that might have changed since they last worked?

It's an all-hands-on-deck type situation. Our health-care professionals and our joint health response team are working with all of the different aspects of this that they have at their disposal, and that's one of the questions they're dealing with right now.

Q: How realistic is it that we can make up this school year?

We don't know. We are really really hopeful and working hard to make sure that containment and mitigation measures that we're putting in place will lessen the impact here. But quite honestly … I don't know the answer.

Q: What about UPEI and Holland College — this is an education that students and parents have paid for. Are you able to offer those students anything at this point?

We want to make sure that they remain vital and viable. They are such a key to our future here in Prince Edward Island. So we're here to help. And that's the conversation that I've been having with them. They are working within their educational institutions to come up with their own critical planning.

Q: The initial announcement made earlier this week was $25 million in aid to businesses and workers. Is that going be enough to make up for what's being lost?

I think the initial offering of $25 million was helpful and is being spent but we are going to need to do more. We just have to figure out the important questions of who needs it now, when are they going to need it and for how long.

Q: Supplies of essential goods — are you confident our supply chain will remain steady?

It is holding right now but as pressure grows we have a growing concern. But that said, things right now, the supply chain is holding and here's hoping we get through this quickly.

Q: How long is this sustainable?

There's a growing concern that as this inches on and we move into a worldwide economic slowdown that it's going to have impacts on everybody's bottom lines here, so we are really trying our very best to get through this for as long as we can.

We really really hope the measures will get us through this more quickly. If this inches on for several months I think everybody is going to be in a really difficult situation to be truly honest.

Still have unanswered questions? Listen to the entire segment with premier Dennis King below:

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

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 CBC Island Morning