Proof of Atlantic residency required to enter provinces in the 'bubble'
HALIFAX -- As the Atlantic provinces prepare to open up their borders to each other on Friday, they are reminding visitors that they will be required to show proof of residency to enter one of the four participating provinces.
Beginning on July 3, residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to travel to Nova Scotia, provided they show proof of residency, as part of the 'Atlantic bubble'.
Every adult will need to show either a drivers' licence, government identification card, health card, or a utility bill or bank statement with a valid Atlantic Canadian address to provincial officials at airports, ferries or the land border when they arrive in the province.
If people can prove with these documents that their permanent home is in Atlantic Canada, they will not have to self-isolate for 14 days when coming into Nova Scotia.
"Businesses and communities are looking forward to welcoming Atlantic Canadian visitors," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "We've worked hard to get to the point where we can welcome our neighbours safely and it's important for everyone to respect the public health guidelines."
People from outside Atlantic Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Nova Scotia. If a person from outside of Atlantic Canada has already self-isolated for 14 days in another Atlantic Canadian province, they may enter Nova Scotia without self-isolating again.
"I know many people are still nervous about this virus. Our visitors may be, too," said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. "We can make their visits a safe experience for everyone by being patient and kind, by practising good hand hygiene, distancing and by wearing a mask when you can't stay six feet apart."
Nova Scotians who are planning to visit another Atlantic province should check before they leave to ensure they have the information documentation required in that province.
While many tourism operators and those missing family and friends celebrated the so-called Atlantic 'bubble,' others have criticized it over fears that the virus will rebound.
An online petition asking Newfoundland and Labrador to keep its borders closed has generated nearly 15,000 signatures this week.
"Our province has been slowly healing and going back to normal, we want to keep it that way," the petition reads. "This is not the time."
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, addressed fears that the province is moving too fast in a news conference this week, pointing to low case numbers while encouraging residents to trust in science.
Nova Scotia, the most populous province in the region, has reported three new COVID-19 cases this week, two related to travel to the U.S. and the third involving a temporary worker who arrived from outside Canada.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil addressed concerns about the bubble, telling Nova Scotians the economic opportunity won't come at the expense of their health.
"Our tourism sector needs this, and we need to try to make it work, but I want to reassure all of you that if we see a spike of COVID, we will re-evaluate," McNeil said.
St. John's resident David Brake was in the process of planning a late-July trip to Prince Edward Island with his two children on the eve of the travel bubble's opening.
While he would usually plan a vacation further afield, Brake decided to take advantage of the travel bubble this year and visit a new province, scheduling a flight to Halifax, with plans to stop in New Brunswick on the way to the Island.
He said he's confident that the trip will be safe for his family given the low coronavirus case numbers at the moment.
But he's pondering how his holiday might be perceived by neighbours upon his return, with many Newfoundlanders still skeptical about whether it's safe to venture off the island that has so far beaten back the virus.
"If I'm not isolated because nobody asked me to, am I going to be a pariah for two weeks? Are my children going to be a pariah for two weeks?" he wondered.
Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation running ferry services between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, said it's seen a spike in bookings, with 3,000 reservations booked in the first six days following the Atlantic bubble announcement.
A statement said the bump "exhausted" capacity, which had been limited to allow for proper distancing and adherence to public health measures. The company will be slowly increasing passenger limits in coming weeks.
While tourism operators welcomed the news, some say the Atlantic bubble won't bring in enough revenue for their businesses to survive.
Carol Alderdice, president of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said visitors from within the region won't be enough to help struggling businesses through the difficult year.
She said Atlantic Canadians typically account for just over 30 per cent of tourism visits in the province, and most operators are eager to see restrictions on entry eased for visitors from elsewhere in Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec.
"It's definitely not enough to make up for the season, absolutely not," Alderdice said from Fredericton.
With files from The Canadian Press.