P.E.I. to lift 'circuit-breaker' restrictions Friday; 1 new COVID-19 case reported
HALIFAX -- Prince Edward Island is ending the province's two-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown, effective Friday.
During a news update Thursday, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief medical officer of health, announced that the province will loosen the restrictions that were implemented on Dec. 7, and originally announced to last until Dec. 21.
“I am confident that Islanders will respect these measures and follow the rules. Residents of P.E.I. have demonstrated their resilience, support, patience and compliance with public health measures since the pandemic began,” said Morrison on Thursday.
“Islanders have demonstrated a responsibility and trust throughout and with that have earned some relief as we head into the Christmas and holiday season,” added P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.
Beginning Friday at 8 a.m., the following measures will be in place until Jan. 11:
- Households can gather indoors and outdoors with up to 10 additional individuals.
- Organized gatherings such as concerts and worship services can occur with 50 people, and a second multiple of 50 people is permitted with an approved operational plan.
- Weddings and funerals can be held with up to 50 people, but are not eligible for a second multiple of 50.
- Gyms and fitness facilities, museums and libraries may operate at up to 50 per cent of standard operating capacity, along with ensuring additional distancing for high-intensity activities.
- Organized recreation and team sports may resume, subject to the limits for organized gatherings. There must be enhanced attention to the maintenance of accurate contact-tracing records. Tournaments are not permitted.
- Retail stores, markets and craft fairs may operate at up to 50 per cent of standard operating capacity in a room.
- Dining can resume at restaurants and licensed premises with a closing time of 11 p.m. with a maximum table size of 10 people. Patrons should be seated at all times, except when going to the washroom or entering or exiting restaurants, and licensed premises are subject to the organized gathering limit of 50 people with a second group permitted with an approved operational plan.
- Personal services may operate on an appointment basis, provided a non-medical mask is worn at all times by the staff and patrons.
- Residents in long-term care can have up to two partners in care with a limited number of visitors allowed in designated areas.
- Licensed and unlicensed childcare centres can continue to operate at 100 per cent capacity.
P.E.I.’s suspension of the Atlantic bubble will continue until at least Jan. 11.
“We would need to see continued improvement of a reduced caseload,” said King. “We’re concerned with the Christmas and holiday season and the transfer of students from in and out of the Atlantic bubble. We’re concerned about the first few weeks of January and will need to see continued improvement. It's our desire to see this open when we can do so safely, and that would be our intention, but we are taking that time to be extra cautious."
“Like everything with COVID-19, these measures are a balance,” said Morrison. “They represent movement towards the new normal phase with some caution in areas that are known to be high-risk for transmission of the virus. In particular, the limits for personal and organized gatherings are slightly less than when we were in the new normal phase, and we have maintained some additional visitation restrictions in long-term care.”
On Dec. 7, P.E.I. entered a two-week lockdown described as a "circuit breaker," which included closing all dining rooms in restaurants, fitness facilities, bingo halls and libraries, limiting organized gatherings to 10 people and retail store capacity to 50 people, and limiting visits to hospitals and long-term care facilities.
“We said when we announced the circuit break that if Islanders did their part, were extra mindful and careful, able to see results and the epidemiology supported it, we would like to reduce the circuit-breaker measures earlier, and tomorrow at 8 a.m. we will do this,” said King.
ONE NEW CASE
Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The case involves a man in his 30s who travelled to P.E.I. from outside of Atlantic Canada to visit family for the holidays. Morrison says the man has been self-isolating away from his family since arriving on the island, and there are no close contacts.
P.E.I. has reported a total of 90 COVID-19 cases since March. According to the provincial dashboard, the province is reporting 73 recoveries and 71,789 negative tests.
Thursday's case was the first reported in the province in five days. On Saturday, P.E.I. reported five new cases of COVID-19, all related to travel outside of the province.
The latest case does come with a potential public exposure on a Dec. 13 flight from Toronto to Charlottetown. Passengers of Air Canada flight 7462 from Toronto are asked to self-monitor for symptoms, and if they do develop symptoms, they should arrange to be tested and self-isolate until their results are received.
Morrison pointed out that P.E.I. has had six new cases of COVID-19, all related to travel outside of the province since the circuit breaker measures came into effect on Dec. 7.
"This case demonstrates that P.E.I. is still at risk of importation of COVID-19. Eighty-seven per cent of our cases are related to out-of-province travel, and with the holiday season upon us there will be more travel to and from our province, increasing the likelihood that we will see more cases of COVID-19," said Morrison.
FIRST VACCINES ADMINISTERED WEDNESDAY
P.E.I. public health administered the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday.
"I believe approximately 140 people got vaccinated yesterday afternoon, and I believe there are 204 individuals booked in for today's afternoon clinic," said Morrison, adding that no adverse effects have been reported.
"People were really positive and pleased to have the chance to get vaccinated. I had some reach out and tell me how excited they were to get that call to go and get that vaccine," said Morrison. “While it will take many months for all Islanders to be vaccinated, the arrival of the vaccine does signal that we are beginning to turn the corner on this pandemic."
Dr. Chris Lantz said he felt like a 10-year-old boy on Christmas morning after receiving his first shot.
"We've been on the defensive for so long," Lantz told reporters gathered at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Wednesday. "It feels so good now to be on the offensive. We're not retreating against the virus, we're taking it to it now."
Registered nurse Debbie Lawless said she felt "ecstatic." She said the pandemic has made life difficult for Islanders, adding that she has a mother in a nursing home in Nova Scotia that she has not been able to see.
"I'm hoping that everyone is this excited and are registered to get it done so we can move forward and have life back to a normal pace again," Lawless said.
Morrison expects that by the end of the week, approximately 1,950 frontline health-care workers will have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and be scheduled to receive a booster in 21 days.