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P.E.I.’s decision to allow seasonal residents could burst N.B. tourism bubble: Higgs
HALIFAX -- The possibility of a tourism bubble between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island has been a topic of discussion in recent weeks, as both provinces have gone more than two weeks without reporting a new case of COVID-19.
But New Brunswick’s premier says the possibility of a bubble with its Maritime neighbour may now be at risk, after P.E.I. announced Wednesday that it would allow seasonal residents to travel to the island beginning June 1.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says the announcement took him by surprise.
“I was surprised about June 1 for seasonal residents from all provinces with property in P.E.I.,” Higgs told CTV Atlantic anchor Steve Murphy during an interview Wednesday. “We were thinking we’d be a few weeks out from that, but in light of what Premier King has announced, people will be travelling through our province, we have to work out the protocols to allow that, and that’s his decision.”
“That might affect our ability to bubble with P.E.I. because we may need that isolation point that we didn’t feel was a problem before. We felt that our residents could move back and forth, by at least July 1. This may have an impact on that so we have to work through that.”
Seasonal residents of P.E.I. will be required to present confirmation of approval at the Confederation Bridge or airport upon arriving and will not be allowed to enter the province without confirmation.
But in order to get to the Confederation Bridge, seasonal residents will have to travel into New Brunswick, which wasn’t part of Higgs’ plans for the province at this time.
“We have concerns with borders outside of New Brunswick. We have worked closely with P.E.I. and we still will because we’re not as concerned there. But I am concerned with the traffic flowing through New Brunswick, for instance, from Quebec, or Ontario, or outside of our Maritime area at this stage.”
Less than a week ago, Higgs reiterated that New Brunswick will be maintaining border control and all out-of-province property owners will be turned away.
New Brunswick is among Canada’s leaders as the provinces emerge from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and gradually begin to reopen the economy. It’s been almost a month since the province permitted the bubbling of households in the first phase of its recovery plan. Now in the second phase, elected surgeries have resumed, restaurants, offices, museums and daycares are permitted to reopen, and many have done so, with physical distancing.
All 120 New Brunswickers who had tested positive for COVID-19 have since recovered, and the province hasn’t announced a new case since May 6.
"This is a considerable achievement which has made us the envy of Canada and much of the world," Dr. Jennifer Russell said Wednesday during a news conference in Fredericton.
“The compliance has been followed very well throughout the province. People have taken it very seriously and they’ve done their part. We have a sparse kind of area to roam around in, we don’t have big city populations and that plays a role too,” said Higgs.
Prince Edward Island also has no active cases, with all 27 confirmed cases having recovered.
Wednesday marked P.E.I.’s 22nd consecutive day with no new cases, with the last positive case reported on April 28.
Canadian seasonal residents will need to complete an application process before arriving to the island. That process will begin on June 1, and includes submitting relevant travel and property ownership documentation and self-isolation plans prior to travelling to the province.
“This allows us to be open to our seasonal island residents, which is the very nature of who we are as Islanders. But we also have to protect and monitor the risk, which is why this process will be closely monitored to protect the well-being of all Islanders,” said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King during Wednesday’s news conference.
King says about 2,300 Canadians are considered seasonal residents of P.E.I. and will be eligible to apply to travel to the island. There are approximately 1,200 more international seasonal residents who will not be able to apply at this time.
Higgs says conversations about borders will continue with P.E.I. and New Brunswick’s other neighbouring provinces in the coming weeks, but as of now, there are no plans to reopen any borders.