Nova Scotia is opening up its borders Wednesday to residents of the three other Atlantic provinces, but has modified rules in place for people coming in from New Brunswick.
Those same rules will also apply to those coming in after the province opens to the rest of the country starting June 30.
New Brunswick has already opened up to Atlantic Canada, as well as to all Canadians with at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, people from P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador can enter Nova Scotia for any reason, without having to self-isolate or complete the province’s safe check-in form.
Those coming from New Brunswick — including Nova Scotians returning home — will have isolation requirements based on their vaccination status and testing.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said he was taken off-guard by the neighbouring province’s decision to open to the rest of Canada, as the three other Atlantic Canadian provinces had only agreed to open to each other, and only on June 23.
During a news conference Tuesday, Rankin said he wants to wait until more people in vulnerable age groups are fully vaccinated before relaxing border measures.
“We understand that restrictions are difficult, especially for those who have strong connections, that have family and friends,” said Rankin, “but we want to make sure that our (people aged 65 and up) are fully vaccinated before we move forward and have that border opened to the rest of the country.”
Rankin also took note of the Delta variant, which he described as “prominent in other provinces.”
“As soon as (New Brunswick) opened up the border to other provinces, that opened up our border,” he said. “So we need to consider the fact that when you have one dose, it is a lot less protection against that variant.”
Nova Scotia is expected to reach 75 per cent of all people aged 65 and up fully vaccinated by the end of the month.
When asked why he waited until the day before the reopening of the Atlantic Bubble to announce these restrictions — when New Brunswick’s new travel measures have been in place for nearly a week — Rankin said they had been familiarizing themselves with the other province’s plan.
“We learned more about the restrictions at their border, or lack thereof, but we think this is the right place to be and the decision was made today,” he said.
What the restrictions are
Travellers coming from New Brunswick will need to continue to complete the Nova Scotia safe check-in form, where they will be able to upload their vaccination status. They will receive automatic approval but must be prepared to show their proof of vaccination to border officials, the province said.
Their isolation requirements are:
- People who have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before arriving in Nova Scotia must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result in Nova Scotia.
- People who have had one dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before arriving in Nova Scotia must self-isolate for at least seven days and cannot leave isolation until they get two negative test results. Test should be done on day one or two, and on day five and six of the isolation.
- People who have not had any vaccine, and those who had their first dose within 14 days of arrival, must self-isolate for 14 days, with testing recommended at the beginning and the end of their isolation period.
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The tests must be standard PCR lab tests and people arriving in Halifax by air can get their first test at the airport.
Those rules will also apply to those coming in from the rest of Canada beginning June 30.
When it comes to families travelling with children, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said “every circumstance is different,” but for the most part, the children’s quarantine status depends on the “least vaccinated” adult they’re travelling with.
For instance, if a child is travelling with two adults and one of them has one vaccine while the other has two, the children would be required to follow the quarantine requirements for the adult with just one dose.
Those crossing the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border for work, school, child care and veterinary services can continue to do so under a travel protocol. People coming for child custody visits have a different protocol to follow that will be updated with more information, the province said.
Specialized workers and fish harvesters from New Brunswick can apply to enter Nova Scotia either as New Brunswick residents or as specialized workers or fish harvesters.
N.B. premier responds
When asked if he had told New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs of these travel requirements in advance, Rankin responded: “No, I didn’t.”
“I tried to get ahold of the New Brunswick officials last week, we were hoping to learn more. Myself and other (Atlantic premiers) were supposed to have a call last week and that never happened,” he said.
“We had to modify our isolation requirements based on their decision to open up to the rest of Canada.”
In a release, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the province clearly announced its objectives for its “Path to Green” reopening plan back in May.
The second phase of the plan, which came into effect last week and allows loosened travel restrictions, was contingent on 75 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers getting their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Over the last 15 months, New Brunswickers have worked hard to do their part, by getting vaccinated, and as a result we achieved the objectives required to move forward with the second phase of our reopening plan,” said the statement.
“We have been welcoming people from Atlantic Canada and other parts of the country for a week now. This is something we promised would happen and we owed it to our residents to stay true to our word and remove restrictions on travel.”
Higgs said he feels confident with the steps taken to reopen New Brunswick.
“As a province, we will continue to follow advice from public health to keep New Brunswickers and other travelers safe,” he said. “It is up to other provinces to decide what steps they feel are necessary within their own borders.”
Two new cases, two deaths
Nova Scotia reported two new deaths from COVID-19 complications on Tuesday.
A man in his 60s has died in the Central Zone. He had received his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, but got infected before he had reached immunity. A man in his 50s also died in the Western Zone. He was unvaccinated. A total of 92 people have now died of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
Rankin referenced these deaths while justifying the travel restrictions.
“We just announced two deaths today, sadly, and I’m not going to take the position that we’re going to take any more loss of life here in Nova Scotia for the sake of opening up one or two weeks early,” he said.
There are also two new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, one in the Central Zone and one in the Western Zone. The Central Zone case is a close contact of a previously reported case and the Western Zone case is related to travel.
Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,323 tests on Monday.
The number of active cases in the province is 74. Two people are in hospital, with nobody currently in intensive care.
— With files from Rebecca Lau