Atlantic provinces working to create regional bubble this summer

Click to play video: 'Premiers discuss opening an ‘Atlantic bubble’ to travelers'
Premiers discuss opening an ‘Atlantic bubble’ to travelers
Atlantic provinces’ premiers discussed the possibility of creating a bubble to allow travel between provinces, Wednesday night. This could happen around Canada Day. Alicia Draus reports. – Jun 11, 2020

The four Atlantic premiers spoke to each other Wednesday night, with one of the topics on hand being the possibility of creating an Atlantic Canada bubble.

As of Thursday, there were fewer than 40 active cases of COVID-19 across all four provinces, with the majority limited to a recent outbreak in Campbellton, N.B.

READ MORE: All active COVID-19 cases in N.B. remain linked to doctor that failed to self-isolate

Prince Edward Island hasn’t had any new cases since the end of April while Newfoundland and Labrador’s last case was May 28. Over the past two weeks, Nova Scotia has reported only seven new cases.

As Atlantic Canada flattens the curve, each province has begun to lift their own restrictions, but travel restrictions have so far remained in place.

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Newfoundland has mostly closed it’s borders to visitors, and P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all require anybody entering the province to self-isolate for 14 days.

But the Atlantic premiers are looking to change that, allowing Atlantic Canadians to move more freely across the region.

READ MORE: Prince Edward Island to open borders to seasonal residents June 1

“The Atlantic premiers are committed to working towards a bubble,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer for P.E.I.

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“This would be done without a need to self-isolate, and I know based on the conversation they’re also looking at epidemiology and what happens over the next few weeks.

It’s welcome news to the tourism industry, which has been largely decimated by travel restrictions.

President of Nova Scotia’s Tourism Industry Association, Darlene Grant Fiander, says opening up an Atlantic bubble would be a big help to the struggling industry.

“When you add the Atlantic region, it makes us up to about 70 per cent of kind of where people come from traditionally, so it would be very positive.”

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Click to play video: 'N.S. tourism sector working to adapt and attract stay-cationers during COVID-19'
N.S. tourism sector working to adapt and attract stay-cationers during COVID-19

But while P.E.I. officials are indicating early July, other premiers aren’t saying that just yet.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil declined an interview but in a statement said he was open to the idea of an Atlatic bubble.

“We cannot put a date on it until we are sure our case numbers are low, and the cases in other provinces remain low,” he said.

“Currently in Nova Scotia, anyone who wants to come is welcome, as long as they don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 and can self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive.”

But Grant Fiander says that does not encourage tourism.

“People don’t do that on vacation, so I don’t think that’s the right message. The message has to be let’s work towards opening safely for Nova Scotians. The Atlantic bubble is the natural next step for us.”

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Meanwhile, Premier Blaine Higgs says they’re still lots to go over.

“What might this look like, and how our policies might align, in terms of border issues, in terms of self-isolation and do our public health officers align.”

Higgs says that officials will be working together over the coming weeks to work something out, though it may just end up being a three-way bubble between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, depending on what Newfoundland decides with their own regulations.

“The goal was that we are working towards having that access sometime this summer, and whether that can be early July or mid-July or whenever is yet to be determined.”

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