Newfoundland and Labrador taking a break from Atlantic bubble

·3 min read

As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, Premier Andrew Furey has decided to pull the plug on the Atlantic bubble — at least for now.

Beginning Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., anyone arriving in the province from the Maritimes must isolate for 14 days. However, travellers within Atlantic Canada will still not have to apply for an exemption.

The resumption of quarantine rules will also now apply to southern Labrador border communities, and those who live on the Quebec side but work in Labrador will have to apply for an exemption.

Furey described the move as a “circuit break” and said it will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

“This is not an easy situation,” he told reporters Monday to a live video briefing.

“We must be responsive now and address the situation today,” he said, adding that the aim is to protect the school population and vulnerable citizens.

“None of us want another full lockdown like the one we’ve just been through.”

Furey said he talked to the other Atlantic premiers over the weekend and all are on board with the decision.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced Monday that province will also pause its participation in the bubble, starting Tuesday.

“We’re enjoying this level of freedom,” Furey said. “We want to keep it that way.”

But he dismissed the notion that leaving the bubble may affect some businesses in the province.

“This is an effort to protect the economy.”

Furey said the number of cases in other Atlantic provinces was not the only factor in the decision. Public Health also took into account that non-residents from the rest of Canada are still allowed to travel to those provinces without the need of an exemption.

The province added another two cases to its tally Monday, including the first case of a child in school.

It’s a girl in elementary school in Deer Lake, where a cluster of cases has caused much of the town to shut down as a precaution.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the child’s cohort — which in this case means the rest of her class — will now have to self-isolate while awaiting a test.

“While this is not welcome news today, it is certainly not unexpected,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew we would eventually see cases in schools.”

She added that procedures are being followed, and that the source of all cases in Deer Lake has been established and there’s no evidence of community spread.

Fitzgerald said she’s tweaking the rules for rotational workers, but won’t backtrack on the shortened seven-day quarantine period implemented in September to relieve the burden of constant isolation while home.

However, workers returning from sites elsewhere in Canada will have to wait till Day 7 to get a test, rather than being able to arrange one on Day 5. That may mean some workers may have to wait an extra day for results.

That rule goes into effect Wednesday as well.

Fitzgerald said waiting two extra days will provide an extra layer of protection.

Workers returning from work outside Canada or returning from sites with an identified outbreak still have to isolate for the full 14 days.

As well, Fitzgerald said families of rotational workers should avoid large gatherings during the isolation period, should wear a mask when in contact with anyone outside their bubble, and should avoid entering personal and long-term care homes.

However, she admitted that is a recommendation and not a rule.

Rotational workers, however, are now required to stay out of care facilities.

“We continue to carefully consider the balance of risks and benefits as COVID rages on outside our borders,” she said.

The province now has 23 active cases, but no longer has anyone in hospital.

In Grand Bank — where seven people tested positive, including five seniors over the age of 70 — all contacts have been traced and are in quarantine, Fitzgerald said.

In Deer Lake, however, contact tracing continues.

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram