'The next couple of days are just critical': Questions remain for opening of Atlantic bubble
HALIFAX -- As a COVID-19 outbreak continues in New Brunswick’s Edmundston region, some are asking whether the Atlantic provinces should reconsider the reopening of the Atlantic bubble, scheduled for next Monday.
Nova Scotia’s picturesque Peggys Cove has withstood the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on tourism.
The owner of its gift shop and restaurant believes the first step to draw more visitors again is to reopen the Atlantic bubble.
I think it’s good that it was announced early,” says John Campbell owner of the Sou'Wester Restaurant and Gift Shop. “I think it’s good that it’s starting now and we just got to hope that it doesn’t get shut down.”
The Atlantic bubble is set to reopen Monday, allowing travellers to flow between all four Atlantic provinces without quarantining.
The first iteration of the bubble was created on July 3, when there were a combined eight active cases in the four Atlantic provinces.
The bubble was suspended on November 26, due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases across the country. At that time, Atlantic Canada had 249 combined active cases.
As of Monday, there are 208 combined active cases in the region, which has some wondering whether the bubble should go ahead as planned on April 19.
“I think the next couple of days are just critical,” says John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Great Moncton Area
Wishart says businesses in New Brunswick welcome tourism traffic, but high COVID-19 case numbers in the Edmundston region recently have shaken confidence that the bubble will reopen as planned.
At some point the chief medical officers of health and the premiers are going to have to make a call and how late can they go?” asks Wishert. “Can they make that call on Friday? Can they make that call Sunday night?”
In Nova Scotia, cases remain low, with 46 active cases as of Monday. On the streets of Halifax, reaction to plans to reopen the bubble are mixed.
“I think they should wait a month,” says one Halifax resident.
“I think we’re probably safe to open anyway,” says another.
But even in industries that rely on tourism, there is some hesitancy to reopen the bubble next week.
In Prince Edward Island, the owner of a group of rental cottages near Cavendish beach says it makes no difference to his business whether the bubble reopens in May or April.
“The worst case is the government has to close again after they open. That is the worst case,” says Gavin Ren, owner of Green Gables Bungalow Court.
With seven active cases in P.E.I., Ren says he would like to see the bubble’s reopening postponed by a week or two.
Atlantic Canada’s four Chief Medical Officers of Health say they are meeting regularly to share and evaluate data.
"The chief medical officers of health for Atlantic Canada meet weekly as do the epidemiologists for the same region to share situational awareness and evaluate key data," said John McNeil, spokesperson for the New Brunswick government. "A discussion around restoring the Atlantic Bubble is top of mind and any recommendations concerning the bubble will be presented to the all-party COVID-19 cabinet and cabinet sometime this week."
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says they’re hopeful if case numbers stay consistently low, they can get back to enjoying travel with no requirement to self-isolate.
"We continue to monitor the epidemiology in all Atlantic Provinces and remain in close contact with our counterparts in those provinces," said Dr. Strang in an emailed statement. "We’re hopeful that if case numbers stay consistently low in the Atlantic region that we can get back to enjoying travel between our neighbouring provinces with no requirement to self-isolate."