PEI·Video

P.E.I. premier says plan for 'open, safe' summer coming next week

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says a plan to reopen the province will be presented to Islanders next week.

Dennis King says he and Dr. Morrison will give a briefing on Thursday

Premier Dennis King spoke about the reopening plan and paid sick leave in his Compass interview. (Skype)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says a plan to reopen the province will be presented to Islanders next week.

Last spring, P.E.I. used a phased reopening plan with dated milestones to ease restrictions. Last Wednesday, King said a similar plan could be expected this week.

The province then announced several new cases of COVID-19, impacting a child-care centre and ultimately resulting in a cluster of cases.

"We will release that next Thursday, but I think what we're trying to work toward is to try to have the most open, safe summer that we could possibly have," King told Compass host Louise Martin.

"I think you will see our measures that will include testing coming into our province through all of our points of entry as an added level of protection for Islanders. As more and more of us get vaccinated, we can back our way out of that. That's going to be part of the plan."

Ongoing talks of opening borders late summer

King said the hope is to have visitors from the Atlantic region be able to visit P.E.I. "really soon" and from the rest of the country in the later end of the summer season.

"More details to come, but I really do think that we were hoping to have a much better tourism year than we did last year, and even though we've had some hiccups here with this third wave across the country, we feel like we'll have a much bigger year than we did last year."

The premier said he does not anticipate the province being as open as it was in the summer of 2019, but the province wants to take a measured approach and will require declaration forms, increased testing and a rapid test upon entry.

Premier Dennis King on what reopening could look like on P.E.I.

PEI

2 months ago
6:23
Louise Martin speaks with P.E.I. Premier Dennis King about what the Island could look like this summer, in terms of COVID-19 restrictions and travel. 6:23

"It is our hope late into August, perhaps even earlier if the factors change, that we can get back to a little bit more normal, and that would be the free flow of traffic into all of our provinces, including P.E.I.," he said.

Vaccination rollouts on the Island and abroad will also play a role.

"It isn't so much us being worried about somebody coming here getting sick, but someone coming here and the virus spreading through P.E.I. without enough of us being vaccinated and some of the issues that could cause to our health care system," he said.

"We've been cautious and we will continue to be cautious, but we will make those slow steps forward, and I think, you know, I see really good things on the horizon for late in the summer."

'A bigger conversation'

After the daycare worker tested positive for COVID-19 after going to work last week, child-care workers then called on the government to fund sick days.

When asked if King would consider it, he said he's "open to that conversation."

King says the pandemic has highlighted sick pay as a way to support workers to not have to make the choice of whether or not to get paid. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

"We've learned through COVID the importance of having sick days for those who don't need to have to make a decision whether to go to work to get paid or not, so that's why we put in place our special leave fund," he said.

"It's a bigger conversation, though, that needs to include business owners. It needs to include unions and other work representatives as well, but I think we're very much open to that and seeing how we could do it into the future. 

The topic was raised several times in the legislature during the spring sitting.

"It's a conversation that needs more than just government saying 'We're doing this' ... the largest number of people employed in this province are employed in the private sector, so we need to make sure that we're not downloading a lot of unneeded costs onto small businesses," he said.

"I think it's one of the things, once we get through this pandemic, that we will see potentially change the way we do things here in P.E.I. because we've just learned so much through the pandemic."

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