Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador announced Monday they are temporarily pulling out of the Atlantic bubble as COVID-19 cases rise in the region.
“After careful consideration and consultation, I have made the tough decision to implement a circuit break,” Premier Andrew Furey told reporters in St. John’s, N.L. “Implementing this change for a two-week period is an effort to avoid a full lockdown.”
In Charlottetown, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced what he said was a preventive move, “which we hope will allow us to maintain the level of almost ordinary life that we have been enjoying in this province.”
King said all non-essential travel to and from the Island would be suspended until Dec. 7., at which time the situation would be re-evaluated. The changes come into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, he said.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, all visitors to the province from the Atlantic provinces will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, just like visitors from other parts of Canada, though they will not have to apply for a travel exemption. Those changes begin at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
The Council of Atlantic Premiers issued a statement Monday in which Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs joined Furey and King in “recommending caution regarding non-essential travel within the Atlantic Provinces.” Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have so far stopped short of imposing new travel restrictions.
The four Atlantic provinces formed their so-called bubble in July to allow residents to travel freely within the region, while those visiting from outside were required to isolate for 14 days.
Monday’s changes come after a weekend in which New Brunswick set a record for single-day case numbers on Saturday, with 23 announced, and Nova Scotia flagged potential exposure at nearly 40 locationsin Halifax in the midst of community spread. Last week, Newfoundland and Labrador announced a new case affecting someone who’d returned to the province from Nova Scotia.
In Nova Scotia, stricter public health rules limiting gatherings came into effect in the Halifax region and neighbouring Hants County Monday after the province identified 19 new COVID-19 infections on Friday and Saturday.
Prince Edward reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday — a woman in her 40s who travelled to the Island from outside of the Atlantic region. The province has recorded a total of 69 cases since the pandemic began, all travel-related.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases Monday, both in the western region of the province. The first is a man between the ages of 20 and 39 who returned to the province after travelling to Manitoba. The second is the province’s first case in a school, a girl who attends an elementary school in Deer Lake, where a cluster of connected cases was first identified last week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.
— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press