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Coronavirus: Cross-border families eager to reunite amid talks of re-establishing Maritime Bubble

WATCH: As the Maritimes approach a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the provinces are beginning to talk about renewing the Atlantic bubble. Jesse Thomas reports. – Mar 10, 2021

Even just the idea of bringing back the so-called Maritime Bubble has Kathleen Armstrong a little emotional.

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Armstrong, who lives in Halifax, hasn’t seen her family back home in Sussex, N.B., in nearly six months. This was the first Christmas she missed with her family and there are still Christmas gifts piled up at home waiting to be delivered.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 5 new COVID-19 cases, confirms more South African and U.K. coronavirus variants

“There’s all kinds of Christmas gifts laying in my office, wrapped, tagged and ready to go, ready to be opened and here I am still looking at them in March,” said Armstrong.

During this time, Armstrong has also gotten engaged. She broke the news to her family over Facetime and says she’s eager for the chance to show off her new ring in person.

The talk of bringing back the Maritime Bubble, allowing residents in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island to travel freely without having to isolate, has her a little emotional.

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“There’s rumblings it’s coming and I just instantly welled up with tears because it’s so close but it seems so far away,” said Armstrong, who heard the news late Tuesday afternoon that the Maritime premiers would be discussing the idea of bringing the Maritime Bubble back during a discussion set to take place next week.

It was back in November, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise in New Brunswick, that PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador were forced to pull out of the so-called Atlantic bubble.

But with case numbers trending in the right direction, the idea of re-establishing the Maritime Bubble is going to be examined again.

At Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Nova Scotia premier Iain Rankin said it’s too early to look at an Atlantic Bubble, but said case numbers in the Maritimes indicate it’s a good chance to examine the border protocols.

“Number one, we need to ensure we have full comfort from all three public health departments,” said Rankin at Tuesday’s press briefing. “It’s early days but we’ll have those conversations next week.”

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Read more: Traffic heavy as Atlantic provinces lift travel restrictions within region

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said if the cases continue to decline and the vaccine rollout remains on track, then the border restrictions could likely be eased by mid-April.

“If the vaccine rollout is as we anticipate it’s going to be over the next six weeks, it certainly it puts us in a good position to rethink the borders between our provinces,” said Higgs.

“But I do think it gives us the opportunity to look at our Atlantic borders.”

Jenna Morton lives in Boundary Creek, N.B., but most of her family resides in Cape Breton. As such, it’s been a long time since her children have been able to see their grandparents.

Morton says the fact that the family was unable to get together for Christmas was hard on the family and especially the children. Now, the talk of re-establishing the Maritime Bubble has given them a reason to be excited for the spring and summer.

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“To miss out on those moments, it’s just like this piece of your fabric that’s missing,” said Morton. “The kids can’t quite articulate what that means. They are sad about it, but I know they are very, very excited about the idea that the bubble is going to return.”

Morton says if anything, the idea of the Maritime Bubble brings a sense of hope for her family.

“It’s been a heavy load for everyone. Everyone has had things that they’ve missed out on, whether it was small things or big things,” said Morton.

“To be able to just have something to look forward to is exciting.”

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