Atlantic Canada prepares to lift travel restrictions as regional “bubble” opens

Atlantic Canada prepares to lift travel restrictions as regional “bubble” opens

Atlantic Canada prepares to lift travel restrictions as regional “bubble” opens

Atlantic Canadians are closely eyeing travel requirements and coronavirus case numbers across the region as the four provinces prepare to open their borders to their neighbours Friday, an experiment that’s prompted excitement and anxiety among residents.

COVID-19 cases in the region have dwindled in recent weeks, and the four provinces have agreed to waive isolation requirements among the group to boost their economies and offer social support to residents.

While many tourism operators and those missing family and friends celebrated the news, others have criticized the bubble over fears that the virus will rebound.

An online petition asking Newfoundland and Labrador to keep its borders closed has generated nearly 15,000 signatures this week.

“Our province has been slowly healing and going back to normal, we want to keep it that way,” the petition reads. “This is not the time.”

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, addressed fears that the province is moving too fast in a news conference this week, pointing to low case numbers while encouraging residents to trust in science.

Her Nova Scotian counterpart, Dr. Robert Strang, also shared a message to anxious residents in a statement on Thursday encouraging them to continue following health guidelines.

“I know many people are still nervous about this virus. Our visitors may be, too,” Strang’s statement said. “We can make their visits a safe experience for everyone by being patient and kind, by practising good hand hygiene, distancing and by wearing a mask when you can’t stay six feet apart.”

Nova Scotia, the most populous province in the region, has reported three new COVID-19 cases this week, two related to travel to the U.S. and the third involving a temporary worker who arrived from outside Canada.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil addressed concerns about the bubble, telling Nova Scotians the economic opportunity won’t come at the expense of their health.

“Our tourism sector needs this, and we need to try to make it work, but I want to reassure all of you that if we see a spike of COVID, we will re-evaluate,” McNeil said.

St. John’s resident David Brake was in the process of planning a late-July trip to Prince Edward Island with his two children on the eve of the travel bubble’s opening.

While he would usually plan a vacation further afield, Brake decided to take advantage of the travel bubble this year and visit a new province, scheduling a flight to Halifax, with plans to stop in New Brunswick on the way to the Island.

He said he’s confident that the trip will be safe for his family given the low coronavirus case numbers at the moment.

But he’s pondering how his holiday might be perceived by neighbours upon his return, with many Newfoundlanders still skeptical about whether it’s safe to venture off the island that has so far beaten back the virus.

“If I’m not isolated because nobody asked me to, am I going to be a pariah for two weeks? Are my children going to be a pariah for two weeks?” he wondered.

For those planning trips to another province, some identification and preventive measures will be required.

Adults travelling to Nova Scotia must show proof of residency in one of the four provinces in order to enter without having to isolate for 14 days.

Prince Edward Island is asking visitors to fill out a form with details including proof of residence, health declarations and planned arrival and departure dates for each person.

Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation running ferry services between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, said it’s seen a spike in bookings, with 3,000 reservations booked in the first six days following the Atlantic bubble announcement.

A statement said the bump “exhausted” capacity, which had been limited to allow for proper distancing and adherence to public health measures. The company will be slowly increasing passenger limits in coming weeks.

While tourism operators welcomed the news, some say the Atlantic bubble won’t bring in enough revenue for their businesses to survive.

Carol Alderdice, president of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said visitors from within the region won’t be enough to help struggling businesses through the difficult year.

She said Atlantic Canadians typically account for just over 30 per cent of tourism visits in the province, and most operators are eager to see restrictions on entry eased for visitors from elsewhere in Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec.

“It’s definitely not enough to make up for the season, absolutely not,” Alderdice said from Fredericton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2020.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Community Christmas Eve Dinner cancelled

The 20th anniversary of the Community Christmas Eve dinner is cancelled amidst COVID-19 concerns

The consensus around the Sylvan Lake council chamber Wednesday was the town does not have the ability to properly enforce a proposed mandatory indoor mask bylaw. File Photo
Sylvan Lake town council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Most Read