Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island are temporarily pulling out of the Atlantic bubble, citing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in other provinces.
Since July, the Atlantic bubble has allowed travellers in the four provinces to move freely across borders in the region without having to isolate after arrival
Andrew Furey, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, said Monday it was time “to implement a circuit breaker” and announced a two-week break from the bubble. As of Wednesday, non-essential travellers to his province will have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
“The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride and people outside our region have taken note,” Furey said at a news conference Monday morning. “But the situation has changed.”
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health in N.L., said the decision to rejoin the Atlantic bubble will depend in part on the trajectory of cases in the region and how other Atlantic provinces respond.
“So there are a couple of provinces, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, that have identified outbreaks and Nova Scotia has been clear that they have some community transmission as well,” Fitzgerald said.
‘Easily become overwhelmed’
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King also announced a pause on non-essential travel to and from his province effective Tuesday for a minimum of two weeks. He said the province will re-evaluate at that time.
“I feel it is a proactive measure. I feel it is a preventative step and a pre-emptive decision which we hope will allow us to maintain the level of almost ordinary life that we’ve been enjoying in this province,” King said at a news conference Monday.
King added that the province’s concern since the beginning of the pandemic has been its size.
“We have a health system that is strong and that is ready but we also know it has limitations and the potential of a large outbreak as we have seen in other jurisdictions would put pressure on our system and we could very easily become overwhelmed,” King said.
P.E.I. reported one new case Monday, with officials saying it was related to travel. The province reported 69 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 67 of those considered recovered.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported two more cases for a total of 23 active cases.
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick respond
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil urged people to limit all travel for the next two weeks. He’s scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update on Tuesday.
“Nova Scotia is urging people to limit travel for the next two weeks. I respect the decision of the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador to take further steps at this time. Our border with New Brunswick continues to be monitored,” McNeil said on Twitter.
At a news conference Monday, New Brunswick Premier Blane Higgs said he had no immediate plan to follow his counterparts in N.L. and P.E.I.
“We do not feel it necessary to take this step to remove New Brunswick from the Atlantic bubble at this time, however, we know how quickly things can change,” Higgs said.
About the author
Michael Chubbs is a reporter based in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador. he/him