Atlantic Canadians flock to P.E.I. as province opens to travellers from region

·4 min read
Around 26,000 PEI Pass applications have been approved so far, says Ryan Neale, manager of P.E.I. environmental health, who's helping oversee the Island's points of entry. (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)
Around 26,000 PEI Pass applications have been approved so far, says Ryan Neale, manager of P.E.I. environmental health, who's helping oversee the Island's points of entry. (Rick Gibbs/CBC - image credit)

Many Atlantic Canadians used the Confederation Bridge to get to Prince Edward Island Sunday as the PEI Pass came into effect.

Now people with a PEI Pass in the Atlantic region can come to the Island without the need to isolate as long as they have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and agree to a rapid test.

Prior to Sunday people coming to P.E.I. had to apply for pre-approved travel.

Around 26,000 PEI Pass applications have been approved so far, says Ryan Neale, manager of P.E.I. environmental health, who's helping to oversee the Island's points of entry.

"The traffic flow started just around midnight," he said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Neale said about 50,000 applications have come in thus far with around 6,000 travellers marking July 27th as their expected arrival date.

"We do think that some of those people were just anxious to get that pass in case they wanted to travel on the 27th," he said.

People coming to the Island get a rapid COVID-19 test — and it can take up to two hours for results to come back.

"If they don't get a call within that two hours then they can presume their test is negative. If they do get a call that would mean it's a presumptive positive and we would direct that person to one of our other testing clinics though Health PEI to get tested there," he said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Sheila Dunbar was one of many to come over the bridge. She's an Islander but lives in New Brunswick now — and she is happy to be home.

"It's the Island, everyone comes home to the Island. You can take the girl from the Island, but you can't take the Island from the girl," she said.

"I can't wait to see my mom and my sister," she said.

Rick Gibbs/CBC
Rick Gibbs/CBC

Dunbar said it was much quicker to get on the Island last year when the Atlantic bubble was in place — she said she was surprised to hear about the wait time for a rapid test.

She waited two hours in Borden-Carleton, and when she didn't get a phone call within that allotted time — Dunbar went on to meet her mom in Summerside.

Travellers are also being given a piece of paper with information on it they can use to periodically check testing results.

"I'm staying till Wednesday. I'd like to get home before July 1st because I think that might be a nightmare getting back and forth," Dunbar said.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Businesses in the area were drawing in travellers waiting for a rapid test result.

"We've already seen an uptake in people visiting our establishment. Which is great to see, it's been a long year and half watching the Confederation Bridge open and close. And for the most part it's been closed," said Jared Murphy, co-owner of Lone Oak Brewing Company.

"To see traffic finally coming through again, there is an excitement in the air."

A local musician was on the stage playing at Lone Oak, and Murphy said he was hoping that would draw more people in. Even P.E.I. Premier Dennis King stopped in for lunch.

"It's great just to see people coming to Prince Edward Island in general, whether they stop in Gateway Village or head to their destination. Just seeing the traffic in general is great for us, it's great for all small businesses."

On Saturday two people were charged for failing to stop at a COVID-19 checkpoint at the Confederation Bridge after arriving on P.E.I.

"We have highway safety those are our partners that assist with some security. We also have a security company that is with us, and we as much as possible try to use equipment to direct individuals into the screening station," Neale said.

"But it is difficult to plug every hole. But we do have camera in the area. There is surveillance here. So if a vehicle does attempt to circumvent the process they will be seen."

Neale said partners in enforcement such as conservation officers and police agencies will step in to deal with the situation like they did Saturday.

Neale said the province remains on track to open to the rest of Canada July 28.

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