FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick's Green leader says if ever there was a time for a permanent ferry link to Campobello Island, it is now.

David Coon said some people on the island are feeling "quite trapped" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was responding to calls from island residents for a link to the mainland that doesn't require them to drive through the state of Maine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island has a seasonal ferry link with neighbouring Deer Island in the summer months, but Coon said a year-round ferry is a long overdue necessity.

"Every Canadian has the right to be connected to the rest of Canada," he said.

"Our ferry system is just an extension of our road system in New Brunswick, whether you're going to Deer Island, Grand Manan or Whitehead Island. That needs to incorporate Campobello."

There is an agreement in place allowing Campobello residents to cross a bridge into Lubec, Maine, drive an hour to St. Stephen, N.B., for supplies and return, without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

But Campobello resident Ulysse Robichaud said many people are just shopping in Maine, and the open border leaves the island susceptible to the novel coronavirus.

"As long as you don't sleep over, you can go to Bangor and do other stuff. It has created an attitude here on the island that it's not serious. It is sending the wrong message and I think instead of the border being open, it should be closed and we should have a ferry with the rest of Canada," Robichaud said.

"We need help. We need access to our own country like the rest of Canadians," he said.

But Premier Blaine Higgs said the current arrangement is working, and there's no plan to change it.

"Residents of Campobello Island are able to cross the border as they always have to get necessities. The border remains open to these residents. There is a local store on the island and residents are also able to drive through Maine without stopping and get the supplies they need in St. Stephen," Higgs said in a statement.

Campobello has a population of about 870, which swells in the summer months.

Island residents have been asking for a permanent ferry for years, and a current petition seeking the service has gathered more than 1,500 names.

"The residents of Campobello do not have year-round access to their own country and this is a cause of great hardship," the petition reads. "We believe that it is our charter right to have unfettered access to our own country."

Last month, Higgs said there isn't enough traffic to warrant a year-round ferry for the island, but the province is looking at starting the seasonal service earlier this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.