HALIFAX -- Prince Edward Island declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 on Thursday, saying it will help with the screening process at provincial borders.

The province will be under a state of emergency effective Friday at 8 a.m. until April 30 at 11:59 p.m.

"The state of emergency allows for the deployment of resources when and where needed, and aids our provincial response to this pandemic as it processes a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of people in Prince Edward Island," said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.

The state of emergency will allow for enhanced controls and screening at points of entry to the province.

"It’s not in our nature to be turning people away," King said. "We're very hospitable and that will continue, but for this time right now it’s been determined that our advantage is an island province right now we are able to continue to mitigate and have success in the mitigation process by trying to limit the transportation inter-provincially."

The province has also extended the current state of public health emergency, which was declared under the Public Health Act on March 16, for an additional 30 days.

With the 30-day extension come two changes, according to P.E.I.’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, one of which involve more restrictions for any healthcare workers working in long-term care.

“They must self-isolate following any travel outside the province. Previously there had been an exemption for these healthcare workers,” she said.

Morrison also announced changes for foreign workers coming to the island for temporary work.

“All temporary foreign workers must self-isolate at a central location for 14-days before going on to their workplace,” said Morrison. “The temporary foreign workers will be monitored closely during the self-isolation and other jurisdictions are also doing this type of requirement for temporary foreign workers, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.”

The justice and public safety minister said these changes will ensure Morrison has the necessary authority to lead the island's ongoing health response to COVID-19.

"Our provincial Public Health Act gives Morrison a great deal of authority to do what she needs to do," said Justice and Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson.

Thompson also said the state of emergency wasn't required, but it will give Morrison more authority to flatten the curve of COVID-19 on the island.

“Putting this order through today, and further engaging the Emergency Measures Organization and law enforcement, will give her more tools at her disposal to do what is needed to protect the health and safety of Islanders," said Thompson.  "Let’s continue doing what she asks of us every day so that we can come out of this on top.”

The province is reminding Islanders that the state of emergency does not replace the public health emergency. It allows the province to mobilize quickly and help Morrison do her job.

During the state of emergency, anyone who plans to travel into Prince Edward Island is required to call 902-894-0385 or email the Emergency Measure Organization to disclose the purpose of their travel to determine if it is considered essential or not.

No new cases on P.E.I.

Morrison said Thursday that there are no new cases of COVID-19 on the island, with the total number of cases remaining at 26.

Twenty-three cases on the island are now considered recovered. Since Wednesday, there have been 92 negative tests.

"I feel like we all breath a collective sense of relief when these results come in," said Morrison.

All cases on the island have been connected to travel. Eighteen of the cases are located in Queens County, with the other eight in Prince County. No cases have been identified in Kings County.

The individuals with positive cases on the island range in age from 20 to 79. Out of the 26 cases, 11 are women, and 15 are men. 

Morrison said testing on the island is also expected to increase.

"Last week we may have done up to a maximum of 100 tests locally. Going forward, we'll be doing 1,000 tests locally a week, and then eventually over the next couple of weeks, increasing that number that we do locally."

The increased local testing will allow for the island to turn around results in less than 24 hours for most tests, and as quick as 50 minutes for others.

Tourism PEI

Prince Edward Island is providing extra support to their tourism industry in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.   

Prince Edward Islands' Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, Matthew MacKay, shared new supports developed to help P.E.I.'s tourism industry, including a $50-million tourism assistant loan package.

"These loans will be provided through Finance PEI, with the maximum financing of up to $1-million at 4 per cent interest available for working capital," said MacKay.

Both the principal payments on the loan, as well as interest, will be deferred for the first 18 months.

MacKay also announced interest relief to be provided to Islanders on existing loans to tourism business for up to 18 months.

Recognizing the need to support the tourism industry’s quick recovery, MacKay announced $1-million towards expanded marketing.

The province is also waiving the licensing, inspection and Tourism P.E.I. advertising fees for the 2020 operating season.

“Our tourism sector has been hard hit due to COVID-19 and is facing many challenges as our country and the world implements measures to protect the health and safety of citizens,” said MacKay.

“There is not a simple solution or a crystal ball to figure out when we will get back to normal or what our new normal will look like but tourism operators should know that the provincial government is here for you and that we will work with you to make sure you can continue to operate and contribute to what makes Prince Edward Island so special.”