While travel between the four Atlantic provinces is opening up, the public health rules in each area vary.
No matter what province you’re in, advice around masks, handwashing and physical distancing remains the same. But approaches to close contacts and gatherings are different.
Ensuring risks are limited amid the coronavirus pandemic is important for the longterm outlook of the region.
“COVID-19 will be with us for a long time and we, collectively, in order to have a functioning economy and a functioning society, we all have to work collectively and individually to continue with that success to keep the borders open and to keep our economy open,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health.
Here’s a guide for each province.
New Brunswick was the first province in Canada to implement the two-household bubble approach. Now bubbles have been broadened to include close friends and family, but public health is still asking people to limit their close contacts.
“Try to keep your close contacts as low as possible in numbers and, again, outdoor activities are lower risk, indoor activities are higher risk. So keep those things in mind when you’re making decisions on how to protect your loved ones,” said Russell.
Outdoor gatherings in uncontrolled venues with physically distancing are capped at 50, but outdoor gatherings of 50 or more are permitted under some circumstances.
Masking is required in situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
“When you can’t physically distance by six feet or two metres you must wear a mask or remove yourself immediately,” Russell said.
“Having hand sanitizer, the frequent handwashing with soap and water, have a mask with you in case you do need to wear (it). I think those are all really good things to think about when you’re travelling.”
Those outside of Atlantic Canada are still barred from the province unless their travel is deemed essential or they are a property owner who can demonstrate their plan to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
Prince Edward Island
Guidance around close contacts in P.E.I. is the strictest in the region. People are still asked to stick within their households.
Organized gatherings for things like “worship services, organized sports and recreation, day camps, events including weddings, funerals, burials, and graduations” can include up to 50 people. But personal gatherings should be limited to 15 to 20 people and those from different households should maintain physical distancing.
Masks are recommended for a short period of time when in situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Travellers coming from outside Atlantic Canada are not permitted with the exception of seasonal residents, who must pre-apply to be allowed into the province.
Loose household bubbles of up to 10 people are permitted in Nova Scotia. These groups do not have to be exclusive but “random or spontaneous” gatherings of 10 people are discouraged.
Gatherings of up to 50 people with physical distancing are permitted, with some exceptions for drive-in religious services and outdoor community graduation celebrations.
“Professionally planned events” are able to accommodate up to 250 people.
Masks are recommended for those with respiratory symptoms or in cases where physical distancing is not possible, but the province’s chief medical officer of health says the government isn’t taking the possibility off the table.
“If we saw an increase (in cases) I might be talking to the premier about making it mandatory,” Dr. Robert Strang said.
Even at the height of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has not closed its borders. Anyone can enter the province provided they self-isolate for 14 days.
“We have never closed our border at any point,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said.
“We will not be turning people away, we will be following to make sure that they follow the public health protocols of self-isolation.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador has puts its own spin on the bubble concept, allowing two households to bubble up with an additional six people.
As with most other provinces in Atlantic Canada, gatherings are limited to 50 people and masks are recommended when in public.
As with Nova Scotia, travellers from outside of Atlantic Canada are permitted to enter the province but must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.