HALIFAX -- It’s official. The four Atlantic Canadian provinces will be “bubbling” next month.

Residents of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador can travel within the four Atlantic provinces without having to self-isolate, starting July 3.

“This is exciting news for Nova Scotia families and, quite frankly, for Atlantic Canadian families who have been missing loved ones who are living in other provinces or unable to travel to their respective cottages or properties they would have in neighboring provinces,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil during a news conference in Halifax on Wednesday.

“As of July 3, we will get back to what seems like, what is our normal life, which is free mobility amongst our respective provinces.”

The Atlantic premiers said the decision to ease travel restrictions was guided by the chief medical officers of health in each province, and they will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation.

Atlantic Canadians must still abide by the public health directives in place in each province, such as practising physical distancing and good hand hygiene.

Residents shouldn’t travel if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Anyone who has been advised to self-isolate or is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test will not be allowed to enter another Atlantic province.

Visitors from outside Atlantic Canada must still adhere to the entry requirements in place in each of the four provinces.

Canadians who travel to an Atlantic province must first self-isolate in that province for 14 days before they can travel within the Atlantic provinces. They must provide proof that they self-isolated and are free to travel within Atlantic Canada.

Atlantic Canadians who travel outside the region will still have to self-isolate in their home province before being able to travel within the other Atlantic provinces.

Each province will choose their own processes to track and monitor travellers.

New Brunswick

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that the decision to “bubble” with the other Atlantic provinces is “an acceptable risk” New Brunswick is willing to take.

Atlantic Canadians will be able to travel to and from New Brunswick without the need to self-isolate, but they will be asked to provide proof of residence.

“There are still rules we will all need to follow,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “You will need to self-monitor for symptoms, and you are not permitted to travel if you're experiencing symptoms of the virus.”

Higgs said peace officers will be monitoring the New Brunswick borders and travellers will need to provide proof of their province of residence.

“We will be collecting travellers’ information so we can conduct contact tracing in the event of an outbreak,” he said.

“Each province will have their own process in place to track and monitor travellers for public health purposes and New Brunswickers will be subject to those rules when visiting other provinces.”

Peggy's Cove

Nova Scotia

McNeil said Atlantic Canadians trying to enter Nova Scotia will have to provide proof of residence, such as a driver’s licence or a health card.

Canadians who enter Nova Scotia can travel to the other Atlantic provinces after they have self-isolated in Nova Scotia for 14 days.

McNeil said they will have to provide information about their self-isolation plan, such as the day they arrived in Nova Scotia, where they self-isolated and how they self-isolated. The provincial government will then send that person an email, which they can show as proof of self-isolation at borders in Atlantic Canada.

He also said they will be watching the situation closely as more travellers enter Nova Scotia.

“We'll assess it as a province and we'll assess the epidemiology with inside of our province and with inside of the bubble and if we see alarming trends and spikes with our public health, we'll then make decisions to either isolate that particular outbreak within affected provinces or, quite frankly, isolate the province from the activity of moving about.”

Prince Edward Island

Atlantic visitors to P.E.I. will be required to complete a self-declaration form online and provide a copy of the completed form at points of entry to the province.

Public health and proof of residency screening will be maintained at all entry points.

Seasonal residents travelling from outside Atlantic Canada still need to apply for pre-approved travel to P.E.I. and have a 14-day self-isolation plan. Once they have self-isolated for 14 days, they can ask the province for documentation, which will allow them to travel within the Atlantic region.

“We continue to remain cautiously optimistic as we take another step forward under our Renew PEI, Together plan and participate in an Atlantic travel bubble starting July 3, allowing us to welcome our family, friends and neighbours from the region back to our province, safely,” said Premier Dennis King in a news release.


Trinity Eco-Tours take tourists up close to an iceberg in Bonavista Bay, N.L., on June 11, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Paul Daly)

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said the decision to ease restrictions was not taken lightly.

"As this Atlantic bubble opens, it will be closely monitored as we remain committed to working together to support economic and social recovery while ensuring public health and safety measures for all our residents," said Ball during a news conference Wednesday.

Ball said, if all goes well with the Atlantic bubble, he hopes to further open the borders to other Canadians residents on July 17.

“Now this can only be possible if we get favourable results in the days and weeks leading into July 17. So in order for this to work, we must have to maintain good public health,” said Ball. “We will never hesitate to go back if we have to. Your actions today will determine our results of tomorrow. So continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and practise safe physical distancing.”

Brian Doherty

Halifax pub owner Brian Doherty speaks to CTV News on June 24, 2020.

Welcome news for tourism operators

Confirmation of the long-awaited Atlantic “bubble” is welcome news to businesses and tourism operators hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we can salvage much of the season in the next three months where we expect there will be some travel with the Maritimes, the Atlantic provinces,” said Max Rastelli, who operates a Segway and scooter rental business on the Halifax waterfront.

“People are going to look for places to go and I think Halifax is going to be a great place to visit.”

Halifax pub owner Brian Doherty said the effect of the “bubble” is good news financially, as well as psychologically.

“Once we see people on the move again, I think it creates an air of confidence that everyone is being taken care of, medically, and that this COVID-19 is being kept at bay,” said Doherty.

Carol Alderice, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said 33 per cent of New Brunswick’s out-of-province tourists come from the Atlantic provinces.

“We are very happy that the bubble has finally opened, and that we are moving forward,” said Alderice. “It’s kind of a confirmation that things are starting to get back to as normal as we can be while still living with COVID-19.”

While she’s pleased Atlantic Canadians will be able to spend their tourism dollars in New Brunswick, she also acknowledges this season will look very different from others.

“It won’ t be what we’re used to, if the borders were all open with Quebec and Ontario, but at least it’s better than just having people visiting New Brunswick from within New Brunswick,” said Alderice.

Few active COVID-19 cases in Atlantic region

The Atlantic provinces have reported few new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, Nova Scotia has gone 15 days without a new case, while Prince Edward Island hasn’t seen a new case since April 28. Newfoundland and Labrador reported its last new case on May 28. The three provinces have no active cases at this time.

There are currently 16 active cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, but no new cases were reported on Wednesday.