Atlantic bubble postponed until May

·2 min read

The latest incarnation of the Atlantic bubble is a bust before it even began as new COVID-19 cases continue to mount in New Brunswick, but the four regional premiers have agreed to set a tentative new date of May 3.

The decision came after an early evening teleconference Tuesday between the four Atlantic premiers. They plan to meet again during the last week of April to review the status of outbreaks and determine if a further delay to May 10 is required.

The provinces had tentatively planned to open their borders within the region on April 19, but the premiers of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. both expressed doubts earlier in the day that it would happen.

“This is looking unlikely right now.” Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin told reporters during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

“Right now, we are leaning towards pushing back the reopening to some time in May.”

P.E.I.’s chief health officer said Tuesday she has been consulting with her counterparts in the region and expressed the same reservations.

"Based on the evidence and concerning epidemiology, this morning I did advise the premier that I am concerned at the prospect of reopening the Atlantic bubble next week," Dr. Heather Morrison said during that province’s update.

“It’s tough to plant flags in shifting sand,” Premier Dennis King added. “The advice I’m getting from Dr. Morrison is that a pause for 14 to 21 days, somewhere in that sphere, is required, but we continue to evaluate the situation in the region and across the country.”

New Brunswick currently has 145 active cases, with outbreaks in the Edmonston area, as well as in Moncton and Saint John.

Nova Scotia has 45 new cases while P.E.I. has seven. Newfoundland and Labrador had 11 as of Tuesday.

Nova Scotia had already dropped self-isolation requirements for travellers crossing from New Brunswick, but plans to reinstate them on Thursday.

“This is tough, I know, but it is necessary given what we are seeing across the border, and in several other provinces where the cases are increasing rapidly because of the presence of variants,” Rankin said. “This is what we want to avoid here.”

The first Atlantic bubble was established in July 2020, but was abandoned in November as cases began to increase across the region.

“Our province continues to weigh all options when it comes to lifting travel restrictions with the other Atlantic provinces,” Premier Andrew Furey said Tuesday afternoon before the meeting. “The safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is always paramount in our decision-making.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram