P.E.I. reduces COVID-19 border testing, drops mandatory masks

P.E.I. will no longer test Atlantic Canadian residents who have a PEI Pass when they come to the Island — and vaccinated people will not be required to wear masks in most indoor spaces.

Mandatory indoor mask rule dropped, but people without 2 shots urged to wear them

People will no longer have to wear a mask in indoor public spaces on P.E.I., though many may choose to do so based on their own health circumstances and the nature of the space they are entering. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

P.E.I. will no longer test Atlantic Canadian residents who have a PEI Pass when they come to the Island — and vaccinated people will not be required to wear masks in most indoor spaces.  

P.E.I. implemented rapid testing at the border for everyone when it opened its borders to non-essential travellers from Atlantic Canada on June 27, though there have been busy times when Islanders with passes have been waved through without a swab. 

During a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said he felt confident in dropping the blanket testing, because there have been 25,000 tests done in the last two weeks without a single positive case.

The change in testing protocols became effective at noon Friday.

King added the province would also be dropping the mandatory wearing of masks indoors as of noon, noting: "These milestones are taking place sooner than we had originally planned." 

Dropping case numbers and rising immunization rates across the country were important factors in the province's decision, he said.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King says Atlantic Canadians holding a PEI Pass will no longer need to undergo rapid testing when arriving on the Island. (CBC)

Mask requirements have been in place on P.E.I. since November. This latest change follows an easing of requirements last week, letting people take off their masks while seated at concerts and church services.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the easing of mask requirements reflects a change in the pandemic situation. The province is no longer so concerned about the general risk to the population, and so people should be allowed to make decisions in terms of their own feelings about their personal risk.

People should still wear masks until they are fully vaccinated, she said, and the wearing of masks is still encouraged for everyone in some situations.

"Masks do remain an important layer of protection when we are around people we do not know or who may not be fully protected," she said.

Islanders are being asked to use their judgment and consider a number of criteria when deciding whether to wear a mask or not, including:

  • Your own vaccination status.
  • Your personal health.
  • Who you are with, and who you are encountering.
  • What kind of space you are in — whether it is cramped or relatively open.

"Are you immuno-compromised? What is your own health status, and what is the health status of those around you? What kind of setting? Are you in a crowded elevator, or are you in a setting where you have a lot of space between you and others?" said Morrison.

Find your own comfort level

Staff at businesses providing services where they are in close personal contact with people — such as restaurants, hair salons and retail establishments — should continue to wear masks because they do not know the health and vaccination status of every customer, she said.

Morrison said mask use will have to be on the honour system, and businesses do not need to ask their customers who are unmasked about their vaccine status.

At Friday's briefing, Dr. Heather Morrison outlined how public health rules are changing with regard to wearing masks in indoor spaces on P.E.I. (CBC)

"Moving from mandatory masks to a situation where masks are recommended and optional — discretionary really — will not be easy for some people," she said.

"It's important that during the next weeks or months that each one of us find our comfort zone and our own pace in relation to masks."

There are no new cases of COVID-19 on the Island, Morrison said, and the number of active cases had fallen to one.

She also noted, in response to a reporter's question, that P.E.I. has had one confirmed case of the delta variant of COVID-19, in June.

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