For the first time since November of 2020, carloads of Nova Scotians and New Brunswickers poured over the Confederation Bridge, entering Prince Edward Island without having to self-isolate.
After four days of allowing limited travel to P.E.I. residents, the province opened up fully to those from the rest of the region.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Ryan Neal, manager of environmental health in the department of health and wellness.
“I can recall last year when we opened to the bubble the first day, a lot of anticipation, a little nervous over how the process will go.”
P.E.I. has some of the most stringent requirements for entry in the newly-reformed Atlantic Bubble. In order to enter the province without isolating, travellers need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and are asked to pre-register for the P.E.I. Pass. Once they arrive, travellers are given a rapid test at the border.
“What we ask individuals after they get their rapid test is keep their phone close for two hours and if they don’t get a call in those two hours, they can presume their test is negative,” Neal said.
“If they do get a call, that would mean it’s a presumptive positive and we would direct that person to one of our other testing clinics.”
So far, the province has received 50,000 applications for the P.E.I. Pass and have already approved about half. On Sunday alone, the Island is expecting to welcome anywhere up to 6,000 travellers.
The screening and testing process takes about half an hour, depending on the traffic, with up to 18 lanes available for processing.
Some questioned if the process was necessary, but were ultimately just happy to make the trip.
“This year, I’m fully vaccinated (for) one month and we have to go through all this, I don’t really understand,” said Mariette Roussel, who travelled from Dieppe, N.B.
“But I’m just happy to be in P.E.I. for our vacation.”
Jolene Cormier said this is her first vacation since the pandemic began.
“It was a long process but worth it in the end,” she said, after clearing the queue.
For businesses, the steady stream of cars across the bridge is a welcome sight.
“It’s all across the island. When we’re talking to other small business owners, everyone is excited. There’s optimism in the air. People are excited to welcome other provinces to P.E.I. and we’re excited to get back to I guess our new normal,” said Jared Murphy, owner of Lone Oak Brewery.
Murphy opened his brewery a year and a half ago, about a block away from the bridge. He said the lack of travelers coming across over due to COVID-19 restrictions has been challenging.
“It’s been an interesting year and a half,” he said. “Overall I think now we just got to look forward and think positively about the survival of the pandemic.”
“Now that we can see some cars coming over the Confederation Bridge, it makes that optimism a little easier.”