The so-called Atlantic bubble is officially making a comeback.
The four Atlantic premiers have agreed to re-open its borders and remove COVID-19 quarantine rules for travellers between the provinces by April 19.
There’s a catch, though.
A news release notes the bubble is conditional upon low COVID-19 case numbers in the region, containment of outbreaks and ongoing advice from the chief medical officers of health.
The premiers had met virtually on Wednesday night to discuss the return of the bubble, four months after it was dismantled.
“I think for a long time we’ve been able to keep our borders tight and that’s proven successful and the previous Atlantic bubble was very successful so I’m eager to see that happen,” Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin told reporters Thursday afternoon.
While there had been speculation the new bubble would include only the three Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador is indeed part of the renewed bubble, however the premiers note Newfoundland’s participation is “conditional on continued progress in easing its provincial alert-level restrictions.”
Newfoundland most recently had an outbreak that saw a peak of 434 active cases in late February.
“Their cases have come down over time and now they’re down where New Brunswick is,” Rankin said.
The bubble was created in July 2020, when the mandatory 14-day quarantine for inter-provincial travellers was removed among the four Atlantic provinces.
The provinces retained low Covid-19 cases all summer and the bubble’s success even caught the eye of international media.
But on Nov. 23, 2020, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador pulled out of the bubble, citing growing case numbers in the other two provinces.
Three days later, New Brunswick announced it too was withdrawing from what was left of the bubble.
Now, Rankin says the provinces have been able to maintain similar percentage case loads, and re-establishing the bubble will allow for families to reunite and the economy to grow.
The most recent numbers from the provinces show Nova Scotia has 17 active cases, New Brunswick has 42, PEI has 4 and Newfoundland and Labrador has 36.
On Wednesday night, following the Atlantic premiers meeting, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters they were being cautious with their decisions.
“For me, it’s about not rushing ahead,” he said. “It’s about having a calculated move forward so we don’t have to have an uncalculated move backward.”
Aside from the Atlantic bubble, people travelling from other Canadian provinces must still complete a 14-day self-isolation.
Both Rankin and Higgs said while opening to the rest of Canada is on their minds, they are cognizant of rising cases elsewhere in the country, especially with variants of concern.