Rankin says Atlantic premiers are discussing possibility of moving up date of travel bubble
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says Atlantic premiers are discussing the possibility of moving up the date for Atlantic travel bubble.
Rankin made the comment in an interview with CTV Anchor Steve Murphy on Thursday evening. Here is a partial transcript of that interview.
STEVE MURPHY: Nova Scotia is still not putting any firm dates on its reopening plan, saying phases will last two weeks, but businesses and travelers looking for greater certainty are taking some solace in comments from Premier Ian Rankin. He says people should be comfortable booking trips within Atlantic Canada around the end of June and probably the rest of the country by about the middle of July. He's also talking about the possibility of special accommodations for travelers who are fully vaccinated. … People are wondering though, how firm is this commitment to have travel restrictions, lifted by the first of July for regional travel in the middle of July for national travel?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: While very little is firm with COVID-19, as we've learned over the span of the pandemic, I think we put together a plan that was based on the data that we're seeing, the metrics around vaccination percentages, and our own epidemiology hospitalizations. All those signs are going in the right direction and we did propose the two to four weeks based on epidemiology. We were comfortable with going and proceeding with Phase 2, and it looks like it's on track for for next Wednesday. What I said was there would be more flexibility with Phase 3 and 4, and June 30 was the scheduled date for the Atlantic region for Phase 4. But, the discussions are ongoing and I've reached out personally to my Atlantic colleagues, as recently as (Thursday) to talk about potential of maybe potentially advancing that date if all goes well.
STEVE MURPHY: So you are talking about the possibility of advancing it, then, you would be willing to move it up?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: Well, we're seeing tremendous success here in Nova Scotia that's due to Nova Scotians, I want to encourage everyone to keep the testing up, that's going to be really important. The two-to-four week period was important especially as Dr. Strang reminded us going into Phase 2 as we slowly open up that's, that's the plan right now. We are looking at two weeks, easily for Phase 3, but in terms of travel from Atlantic Canada we have all of us have around the same epidemiology right now. So, I'm optimistic that we can continue to have conversations about a potential Atlantic bubble.
STEVE MURPHY: Because Dr. Strang did say yesterday that effectively there is no Atlantic bubble, so has there been perhaps in the last 24 hours or so, some shift in the thinking among you four Atlantic reviewers in this respect?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: Well, you're right, there's no bubble if there is an opening on a border outside, and so we were still comfortable with advancing the idea of an Atlantic region and then going in mid-July to the rest of Canada, and once we had a system clearly in place to be able to track the validity of vaccine uptakes, but we need to make sure that we are, to the extent possible, trying to align in our region and I think all four of our premiers, my colleagues, when I talk to them. We do want to try to find ways, even though there's differences of opinion, and obviously New Brunswick and Newfoundland had a plan that got out ahead of that but in P.E.I. Nova Scotia had a plan that was a bit more cautious, but we're all in the same range of late June for opening up Atlantic, I would like to see a day we can all agree on, but those conversations will continue.
STEVE MURPHY: So without etching it in stone, because I know you've said you won't do that, how confident are you when it comes to people spending their money and making firm plans that that July 1 dates will be good to go for travel in Atlantic Canada?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: I'm very confident, unless we have an unforeseen spike in our cases, you should be able to rely on that. And again, dates aren't the scientific way of looking at this, we need to make sure we're looking at our epidemiology, but we are at the tail end at the tail end of this third wave. As long as Nova Scotians listen to the restrictions proposed by public health, continue to get tested, and the testing levels as, as long as they stay up, gives us even more confidence that we're going in the right direction. Phase 2 is going to open on time June 16. We're going to start to allow businesses to open more and more, but we need to make sure that we had that two weeks separation for the incubation period, which was critical. Some public health experts actually proposed three weeks, where the federal government has said, so we had the range in place, I need to give public health that flexibility.
STEVE MURPHY: Fair enough, but are you willing to consider accelerating other parts of the operating plan if things continue as they are not?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: So Dr. Strange and I both said later on in the phases, as long as things continue to go well for us. There is flexibility we shown that the desire to be flexible with rotational workers, for example, right, we made an accommodation for them. We know they work hard and they go back and forth for work and having two doses of vaccine, you'd be able to come home and see their family and not have to isolate. I think that's fair and we need to continue to be fair but based on science.
STEVE MURPHY: Do you support the lifting of travel restrictions for other people who are fully vaccinated and if so, when?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: I do, so if they had two doses, that's a lot of protection. So we're looking at a similar model that we have in place for rotational workers so, so if you have two doses, you should not have to quarantine but we need to have a credible system that we can validate that all provinces are looking at that in the national governments looking at the idea of a vaccine passport. One dose would require modified isolation, testing is, I can't say it enough, we need to continue to test all the way through these phases.
STEVE MURPHY: When do you expect things to loosen up for people who've only had a single shot, that would be people traveling into the province and people wanting to travel out of the province?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: With one single shot, we'll still will still need to have some level of quarantine, recommended testing. So we're continuously looking at how we'd be even to validate we need to validate that one shot. But it's all looking good and with our own provinces and other provinces for the high uptake of vaccines, but we will we will need to make sure that we have a system. But July is what we're looking at for phase four to allow travel outside of the Atlantic.
STEVE MURPHY: You've now got several schools closed premier because of cases of COVID was the decision to reopen the schools worth it for the sake of an extra few days in the month of June, given that you've now got a number of schools including a couple of big ones closed.
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: It was, there's hundreds of schools that are continuously providing education in the classroom to students and all of our health experts have said, to the extent that we can keep schools open, even if it is for a matter of weeks, that it's really important for their learning development. So, we made the right decision. We have clear protocols in place when there's when there's something that occurs at the local level and we still haven't seen transmission in schools. I think that's an important point, there happens to be cases connected and we take swift action to close and clean and then they can open back up.
STEVE MURPHY: In recent weeks we've seen election style ads running, particularly in the newspapers premier from the public health point of view, do you believe there's any reason why you couldn't call an election for July or August if you wanted to?
PREMIER IAIN RANKIN: Right now we're still managing the reopening. I'm going to continue to focus on the needs of Nova Scotians, we need to make sure that we're keeping people safe. People should know what I stand for and the priorities of my government that's going to be what I continue to talk about there's a number of priorities that I've been quite clear that I want to achieve for more I go to it for another mandate, so we just received a housing commission report. There's still more more work to do around health care and so I'm going to continue to govern and when it's time. Then we'll look for a new mandate.