HALIFAX — The Atlantic bubble won't reopen to the rest of Canada "any time soon" given the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country, says Nova Scotia's premier.
Stephen McNeil wouldn't be specific about a timeline during a briefing Tuesday, but said no reopening was in the offing.
"I can tell you it won't be in the short term," McNeil told reporters. "I'm certainly concerned with what I'm seeing in parts of the country with a large outbreak. We'll be watching it, but it (reopening) won't be any time soon for sure."
McNeil thanked the public for helping the province to keep its case numbers low. Nova Scotia currently has three active cases of COVID-19.
"That is not the case everywhere in Canada," he said. "We are watching case numbers climb daily — it happens fast, and it's hard to control after it takes place. We don't want that to happen here and if you think it can't, think again."
Strict isolation orders implemented across the four Atlantic provinces have been credited by health experts for the region's success in largely eliminating community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, pointed to the situation in Quebec and Ontario as a reason Nova Scotians should not get complacent and measures requiring visitors from outside of the Atlantic region to quarantine for two weeks should remain.
Strang said the border restrictions are crucial.
"We've seen the value of that over the last few months. Most of our cases have been isolating, and because of that we've had minimal spread from those cases," he said.
Strang acknowledged that while many businesses are hurting because of the measures, they should understand that they are "part of a bigger piece" in the fight against the spread of the virus.
He said the reality of living with the COVID-19 pandemic is that certain types of businesses will suffer an impact. "We have to allow them to be COVID safe," Strang said. "If we don't, then we run the very real risk of them having to close completely."
Strang also warned the public about what he called "mask fatigue," observing that health officials are aware of a creeping complacency because of lower infection numbers.
"Look at Ontario, look at Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal in Quebec — we don't want to be there," Strang said. "Once you get widespread COVID, it's very difficult to stop the spread. You can't put the genie back in the bottle."
Also Tuesday, McNeil announced his province would ramp up its testing capacity in an attempt to test people with symptoms as quickly as possible ahead of the flu season and a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus in the province.
The plan would see the main lab in Halifax increase its capacity from the current 1,500 tests a day to 2,500 tests a day by mid-November. Equipment would also be added to a lab facility in Sydney, N.S., in early November so tests in Cape Breton can be processed there instead of sending them to Halifax.
The IWK Health Centre in Halifax will also pilot testing of an easier gargle test for children aged four to 18 beginning Wednesday, with plans to expand it to all primary testing centres. The government also plans to extend hours and add staff at other primary testing sites across the province.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press