While the east coast — and the rest of Canada — grapples with rising COVID-19 cases, people from across the region are awaiting the return of the Atlantic travel bubble.
Initially, the bubble was to reopen April 19 after popping back in November. Then, a new tentative date of May 3 was announced, but hopes quickly faded Tuesday.
“That’s clearly not going to happen,” Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin told reporters when asked what new travel restrictions meant for the bubble.
Families have been separated and weddings have been delayed with border restrictions in place in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Melanie Corkum, a Bridgewater, N.S., native living in the Moncton area, maintains contact with her family by way of video chats, text messages and phone calls.
But compared to travelling at will with no self-isolation requirements when the bubble was initially formed, nothing is the same.
“I have had to spend Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving away from my family, my friends,” she says. “Everybody that I know and love is one province away from me, you know, a three-and-a-half hour drive.”
But with reciprocating isolation requirements in both provinces, the New Brunswick woman can’t afford to make the trip home.
Simply put, “it’s devastating,” she says.
With similar COVID-19 restrictions across the Atlantic, isolation-free travel should be allowed, Corkum says.
She says more screening measures, such as temperature checks or even testing, could help alleviate concerns.
“If it allowed me to go home and see my family, I would probably still do it,” she says.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick premiers’ bubble plans
However, Nova Scotia announced Tuesday it was tightening border measures.
Starting on Thursday at 8 a.m., people from outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador will not be allowed to enter the province unless their travel is essential or they are permanent residents of Nova Scotia.
What’s considered essential travel, according to the province, includes people who live in Nova Scotia but their primary employment is in another province, federally approved temporary foreign workers and post-secondary students coming to study in Nova Scotia.
Earlier this week, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said “I am not giving up on the Atlantic bubble and I’m also not giving up to the rest of the country in early July.”
“The bubble could be delayed another week or two beyond May 3rd, time will tell,” he told reporters Monday night. “But do I think summer is going to come back to Canada? I’m going to stay focused on that.”
But nothing is official from the Atlantic premiers. They’ll be discussing bubble possibilities next week, a news release said Tuesday.
“Premiers will meet again next week to assess the most appropriate timing for the reopening of the Atlantic Travel Bubble,” the Council of Atlantic Premiers release said. “Given present conditions in the region and elsewhere in Canada, Premiers will also consider dates later in May 2021 for reducing travel restrictions.”
Wedding planning with travel restrictions
Leanne McLaughlin, a Fredericton resident, is also awaiting a trip to Nova Scotia.
“It’s definitely hard given the fact that we haven’t seen our families in close to seven months,” she tells Global News.
She and her fiancé are planning their wedding in Nova Scotia where many family members live.
They’ve already postponed their wedding, not once, but twice since September 2020, given the uncertainty of COVID-19 situation and the status of the bubble.
“We postponed now until October,” McLaughlin says. “We’re hoping by then the vaccine rollout will be wide enough that we will be able to have the wedding we want, but we also want to be sure that obviously everybody who attends the wedding is safe.”
Overall, border restrictions “have definitely been difficult,” she says.
“We were in the situation, unfortunately, where we lost family members this year,” she says. “They would’ve been at our wedding had COVID not happened and we would’ve been able to get married last year.”
“But we’re trying to stay positive,” she says.
Both women hoping the bubble becomes a reality again sooner rather than later.
“We’re just crossing our fingers that it does open sometime soon,” McLaughlin says. “And when it does, we’ll be ready.”
“I really would love to hug my friends and family, and I’m sure everybody else that has been separated from their loved ones just want the same,” Corkum says.