PEI

P.E.I. declares state of emergency in response to COVID-19

P.E.I. has declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, in addition to the public health emergency that was previously declared. 

Province previously enacted a public health emergency, which continues

Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson says the state of emergency comes into effect at 8 a.m. Friday and will last until April 30 at 11:59 p.m. (Ken Linton/CBC)

P.E.I. has declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, in addition to the public health emergency that was previously declared.

The ability to declare a state of emergency comes from the province's Emergency Measures Act. The state of emergency allows for enhanced controls and screening at points of entry to the province, including the Confederation Bridge, the Charlottetown airport, ferry terminals at Wood Islands and Souris, as well as other points along the shoreline like ports, harbours and wharfs.

"This is so we can dedicate more resources to support the Chief Public Health Office," said Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Bloyce Thompson, adding that the new state of emergency is complementary to the pre-existing public health orders. 

Thompson said the state of emergency comes into effect at 8 a.m. Friday and will last until April 30 at 11:59 p.m. The previous state of public health emergency was enacted on March 16 and has been extended by an additional 30 days.

Premier Dennis King, who was also present Thursday, said the state of emergency was called at the request of both Thompson and chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison to allow law enforcement officials and others to assist with the screening and enforcement of the existing public health orders. 

"Dr. Morrison will continue to lead our provincial response on all fronts," King said.  

In a written release sent during the briefing, officials said the Emergency Measures Organization, under the direction of Thompson, will be controlling access to the province from the various entry points and "direct individuals to leave Prince Edward Island" where applicable. 

King said people travelling back to P.E.I. from out of province are a great concern at this time, and the state of emergency allows the province to "bring in more people to give them the authority to do what they need to do."

"We have and continue to lead the way with our aggressive response," King said. "As we know, all of the cases to date in P.E.I. have been travel related."

Who can come to P.E.I.

Over the last few weeks, officials have been warning non-residents of the Island not to come to the province, and dozens have been turned away at the bridge.

A checkpoint has been in place at Confederation Bridge since April 1. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Individuals who are returning to the Island are being asked to contact officials in advance by phone or email at publicsafety@gov.pe.ca or 902-894-0385.

Thompson said contact with the province prior to your arrival increases transparency, and will let people know if they can get into the province before arriving at the bridge.

"You can still come, but we're requesting that you call ahead," King said to residents of the Island, adding that it is a recommendation to speed up the screening process.

King said turning non-residents away "pains us as Islanders," but it is a response in line with how other jurisdictions are handling travel.

Local testing

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison was also present at the news briefing and said P.E.I. has no new cases of COVID-19 to report on Thursday.

Morrison says local testing for COVID-19 on P.E.I. has been expanded. (Evan Tsuyoshi Mitsui/CBC)

92 negative results have come back since Wednesday, when Morrison reported a single new case of COVID-19. 

Morrison said P.E.I.'s local testing capacity is being expanded to about 1,000 tests a week, up from about 100 tests last week, and she hopes that will increase in the coming weeks. 

Tests are being conducted at both of the province's hospitals in Charlottetown and Summerside. Morrison said the local testing will mean most tests will be turned around in 24 hours, and some tests in as little as 50 minutes. 

P.E.I. has had 26 positive cases of COVID-19, 23 are considered to be recovered. 

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.

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 news from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Nicola MacLeod is a reporter with CBC in P.E.I.

With files from Malcolm Campbell

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