HALIFAX -- One year after the pandemic began, the top public health officials from each of the Maritime provinces looked back and shared their impressions in an interview with CTV Atlantic Anchor Steve Murphy on Thursday evening.

New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison, and Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang have been the public face of the teams that have been working to develop the guidelines that have kept case totals in the Maritimes so low.

Morrison pointed out that the frequency of COVID-19 infections in the rest of Canada has been 2,300 per 100,000 compared to about 200 per 100,000 in the Maritimes

"There's been a lot of hard work and measures to prevent COVID from getting into our provinces," Morrison said.

Russell agreed.

"People have just worked their buns off to do as much as they possibly can," she said.

The three Maritime provinces have responded quickly in "getting our arms around the outbreaks," Morrison said, and made tough decisions for the right reasons – to protect our populations.

Strang said the Maritimes have "geographic and demographic advantages" over the rest of Canada, while also being the last to see infections, so they had an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.


"The willingness to tighten our borders down helped limit the flow of the virus into our provinces and kept it controllable," Strang said. "We had a willingness to do what's necessary."

Morrison says they all took it seriously, but the impact of the pandemic has been a surprise.

"None of us would have expected to be so involved and dealing with this pandemic a year later," she said.

For Strang, what made him realize the COVID-19 pandemic was serious was "when we had to lock things down."

Realizing what it would take to bring the novel coronavirus under control -- and keep it under control -- made it clear how different this pandemic was from H1N1 in 2009.

While there are signs of the end, all three agree it is still too early to celebrate because of how infectious the COVID-19 variants are and how few people are vaccinated at the moment.

Talk of an Atlantic bubble has started, but the variants also play into that discussion, Russell said.

"We'd love to have a bubble," Russell said. "Our epidemiology teams have been talking about it, the three of us have been talking about it, but you can't discount the variants."

Russell said they are "cautiously optimistic," while Morrison says it was successful and would like to return because of the positive effect it had on business and how it fostered the personal connections many of us have with fellow Maritimers.

Despite the benefits, "we have to do that very carefully because of the threat of the variant," Strang said.

You can watch the full interview here.