Atlantic premiers announce return of regional travel bubble by April 19

·2 min read

HALIFAX — Atlantic Canada's premiers say the region's residents will be able to resume unrestricted travel between the four provinces in mid-April.

The return of the so-called Atlantic bubble was jointly announced Thursday by the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said the scheduled return of the bubble on April 19 is about returning to normality with COVID-19 case numbers currently lower throughout the region.

Rankin said the premiers also have a goal of helping the region's commerce, while making it easier for families to visit one another.

"For a long time we have been able to keep our borders tight, and that's proven successful, and the previous Atlantic bubble was very successful, so I'm eager to see that (opening) happen," Rankin told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

The previous bubble burst in November when a number of COVID-19 outbreaks led the provinces to restrict entry.

Rankin said the move isn't about any increased pressure from the business community to open things up.

"I think that everyone has been wanting to see opportunities to travel throughout our region, and when you see that all of our cases are at the same level percentage wise, it makes sense to start looking at it," he said.

The reopening is conditional on COVID-19 case numbers remaining low in the region, outbreaks being contained and on the advice of provincial medical officers.

The premiers' statement said Newfoundland and Labrador’s participation will depend on continued progress in easing its restrictions following an outbreak last month in the St. John's region.

The return of the bubble means residents of the Atlantic provinces will be able to travel within the region without having to self-isolate for 14 days, but the isolation requirement will remain in place for visitors from other parts of Canada.

Rankin said that despite the pending return of the bubble and the gradual ramping up of COVID-19 vaccination programs, the region's premiers are not close to a decision on a potential reopening of borders with the rest of Canada.

"I don't think we are there yet," Rankin said. "We decided it wouldn't be appropriate at this time until we have further vaccinations out into the public."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press