'It's not a race': P.E.I. premier defends decision to reopen border later than New Brunswick

·3 min read
P.E.I. plans to reopen the Atlantic bubble by June 27, with some conditions. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)
P.E.I. plans to reopen the Atlantic bubble by June 27, with some conditions. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says he's not in a race with the other provinces to open up to the rest of Canada.

King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison outlined P.E.I.'s tentative reopening plan last week.

By June 27, it would allow travellers from Atlantic Canada to enter without self-isolating provided they have at least one dose of vaccine.

By Aug. 8, travellers from elsewhere in Canada who are fully vaccinated would be able to enter without self-isolating, and no pre-travel approval would be required by Sept. 12.

However, neighbouring New Brunswick announced it would allow travellers from Canada into the province more than a month earlier — by July 1 — provided they have one dose of vaccine.

All restrictions would be lifted by Aug. 2. It would open to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador visitors by June 7.

Premier Dennis King says P.E.I.'s reopening plan is 'built to be flexible and to change as things improve.'
Premier Dennis King says P.E.I.'s reopening plan is 'built to be flexible and to change as things improve.'(Skype)

Both provinces say their plans are contingent on epidemiology and vaccination rates in the region.

More than 53 per cent of eligible Islanders have received at least one dose. The goal is to have 80 per cent of people 12 and older fully vaccinated by Sept. 12.

As a densely populated Island, P.E.I. would have a limited ability to deal with a severe COVID-19 outbreak, so the government has to be "careful and mindful and cautious" with its reopening, King said in an interview Sunday on CBC's Rosie Barton Live.

We're not trying to beat any other province to the finish line. — P.E.I. Premier Dennis King

"It's not a race for us here. The only race for us is against COVID and the variants and that's the race we're trying to win. We're not trying to beat any other province to the finish line," he said.

King said he understands the frustration and concern from the tourism and business sectors. He said it would be worse to set the dates too soon and have to move them back.

The Atlantic bubble was scheduled to reopen April 19, and then again May 3, but had to be delayed due to rising cases in the region.

"I don't think P.E.I. will be left in the dust here as this thing rolls out and we get through it all across the country," said King.

King said while he is in regular talks with the other Atlantic premiers, they are taking more control of their own destinies when it comes to reopening.

"Our plan is built to be flexible and to change as things improve and if we meet the targets faster than we do then we will open," he said.

Cautious approach in N.S.

Nova Scotia is taking a more cautious approach, but has said it hopes to rejoin the Atlantic bubble by Canada Day.

By September, it's expected 75 per cent of Nova Scotians will be fully vaccinated, and then focus will shift to "living with COVID-19," said Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang.

Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to announce its reopening plan this week.

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