Bubble burst: N.L. and P.E.I. are backing out of the Atlantic bubble
HALIFAX -- The Atlantic bubble has been burst.
Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced Monday that they are backing out of the Atlantic bubble for at least two weeks.
Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island first opened the Atlantic bubble on July 3. The bubble allowed residents of the four provinces to travel freely within the Atlantic region, without having to self-isolate.
However, with COVID-19 cases on the rise across Canada, and within the bubble itself -- particularly in parts of New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia’s Central Zone -- P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador have decided to pull out of the bubble temporarily.
As of Monday, Newfoundland and Labrador was reporting 21 active cases of COVID-19 while P.E.I. was reporting only two active cases.
Nova Scotia reported 51 active cases on Monday and New Brunswick while New Brunswick reported 89.
'COVID-19 IS KNOCKING AT OUR DOOR'
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Monday that all non-essential travel to and from the island will be suspended, starting at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, for a minimum of two weeks. Health officials will re-evaluate the situation at that time.
“Like all of the decisions that we have made collectively, and in the best interest of keeping Islanders safe and healthy, this has not been an easy one for us to make,” said King. “I don’t believe this is a step backwards for us, even though we know it is a tough measure. I feel it is a proactive measure. I feel it is a preventative step.”
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said all non-island residents will be required to apply for pre-travel approval before coming to P.E.I. and must include a 14-day self-isolation plan.
People coming to P.E.I. for essential work will continue to be eligible for work-isolation.
King said he recognizes the decision to pull out of the Atlantic bubble will be difficult for families, businesses and individuals, but it’s necessary to help P.E.I. maintain its low COVID-19 case levels.
“This is a decision we need to make to keep us healthy, to keep us safe, and to keep this life that we have enjoyed, that we have earned here on Prince Edward Island that has made us the envy of other jurisdictions in the country,” said the premier.
Morrison said it is likely P.E.I. may see new positive cases related to the exposures and outbreaks happening in other parts of the country.
“So in other words, I am concerned that it may already be here in some people. We need to act fast,” she said.
“I’ve said before that COVID-19 is knocking at our door, and in recent days, that knocking has become louder and stronger.”
‘NOT AN EASY DECISION’
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said Monday that his government has been monitoring the situation since the province joined the Atlantic bubble in July and, given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, his province is implementing what he calls a “circuit break.”
“The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride and people outside our region have taken note. I commend you all for following public health guidelines throughout Atlantic Canada and doing your part to allow for some semblance of regular life within the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Furey. “But the situation has changed.”
As of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, people arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from within the Atlantic bubble will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
“This is not an easy decision, but as your premier, as a physician, and as a concerned father and citizen, I must do what I promised – protect the best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Furey.
“Implementing this change for a two-week period is an effort to avoid a full lockdown.”
ATLANTIC PREMIERS ADVISE AGAINST NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick did not announce any changes regarding self-isolation or travel within the Atlantic region on Monday.
As of now, residents of Atlantic Canada can still travel to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick without having to self-isolate in those provinces.
However, the Council of Atlantic Premiers issued a news release Monday, recommending caution regarding non-essential travel within the Atlantic provinces.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for all Canadians, and especially our most vulnerable populations. Premiers noted that second waves of COVID-19 are happening across Canada and around the world. Given this, Premiers discussed the need for extra caution on non-essential travel in the region and agreed to monitor this closely over the next two weeks,” said the Council of Atlantic Premiers in a statement. “Some provinces may take additional measures. Premiers agreed that measures will be reviewed with the advice of Atlantic Chief Medical Officers of Health.”
In a news release, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil urged people to limit travel for the next two weeks, and said the province's border with New Brunswick continues to be monitored.
"There are a number of people on both sides of our shared border who drive back and forth for work or other essential reasons, and they can continue to do so," said McNeil. "But for anyone considering a shopping trip or other non-essential travel, we are asking you not to go. This is another step we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19."
Morrison also addressed the issue of non-essential travel during Monday’s news conference.
“As I noted last week, Islanders should only leave P.E.I. if it is absolutely necessary, such has for work or medical appointments, only travel off-island if it is for essential purposes, or work,” she said.
“Now is not the time to travel within Atlantic Canada for non-essential purposes such as shopping, or a non-essential visit with family or friends.”