Souris residents worried about Magdalen Islands ferry travellers
'I don’t know if the people of Prince Edward Island are comfortable'
Quebecers wanting to go to the Magdalen Islands will be able to travel through P.E.I. starting June 26.
The P.E.I. premier's office says travellers will have to abide by certain guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Those travelling from Quebec to the Magdalen Islands can stay overnight in New Brunswick, but will only be allowed on P.E.I. the same day they have a ferry reservation and must provide proof at the Confederation Bridge.
"We respect Quebec's decision to open up for intraprovincial travel and tourism. We also recognize the unique geographic position the Magdalen Islands are in and their reliance on a safe travel corridor through New Brunswick and P.E.I. to allow Quebecers to travel to the Islands," the premier's office said in an email to CBC.
Those travelling through the Island will not be allowed to stop for anything other than fuel or using a washroom and must go directly to the ferry terminal in Souris.
However, some in the area are worried.
"The citizens of Souris are quite concerned over the travel arrangements being made," said the town's Mayor JoAnne Dunphy.
Dunphy said while travellers have to apply through the Quebec government to travel she is worried numbers will go unchecked.
"As far as we know it is open to as many people that want to travel," she said. "From what I can understand 10,000 to 20,000 people are going to be through P.E.I."
With many people set to travel through the Island to the Magdalen Islands, Dunphy said she is worried not everyone is going to do what they are supposed to do.
She said she is also worried about people travelling to P.E.I. from a place heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Measures being taken
Alan MacPhee, owner of MacPhee's Market in Souris, said he was expecting the ferry to open up at some point, and he has precautions in place at the store.
"We have security at the door to screen people coming in because we've had a number of people who haven't self-quarantined come to the Island," he said.
The store also has handwashing and physical distancing measures in place. But MacPhee is also offering service for people waiting to get on the ferry.
"We do provide off-site service for travellers if they want deliveries to the Magdalen ferry terminal or parking lot pick up or to their cottages," he said.
Travellers can call or email the store and get service in English and French.
"We have French, English, Chinese and Spanish translations of our documents," he said.
MacPhee said he knows people in the community are concerned and a request has been made to the province to give travellers information when they purchase their ferry ticket to direct them to businesses, like gas stations, that offer contactless service.
"I don't know if the people of Prince Edward Island are comfortable, but there are mobility rights," he said.
Quebec has had over 54,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,200 deaths as a result.
"It's a very high number," Dunphy said. "So it is a concern where P.E.I. has been doing really well and everyone has been doing what they're supposed to do."
Dunphy said she understands Souris is the entrance to the ferry service and knows that is tough for some residents.
"We're hearing it from all the residents in Souris, we are hearing it from council," she said.
Dunphy said calls and letters have been sent to Health PEI highlighting concerns.
"We have a lot of seniors, we have people with health issues. We are little … we are a small town 1,100 people. All it takes is one person."
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With files from Brian Higgins and Angela Walker