CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island hopes to welcome travellers from across the country as early as Aug. 8, according to the post-pandemic reopening plan unveiled Thursday by the province's top doctor.
If vaccination plans roll out as intended, partially and fully vaccinated travellers from Atlantic Canada will be allowed on the Island without having to self-isolate as early as June 27, Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, told reporters.
The province will be open to select visitors from the rest of the country on Aug. 8, and then open to everyone as of Sept. 12, she said. Morrison called the reopening plan "a transition to the recovery phase of this global pandemic."
"Today is about being thankful for what we've been able to achieve together," she said. "P.E.I. has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases in Canada. We have been fortunate, but we've also worked very hard."
Prince Edward Island was the first Atlantic province to set dates for loosening restrictions and opening up provincial boundaries, though New Brunswick was not far behind and announced its own reopening plan Thursday afternoon.
Morrison emphasized the dates in P.E.I.'s plan are contingent on vaccination rates and the public health outlook for the Island and the rest of the country. The province has logged just 200 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths linked to the novel coronavirus since the pandemic first emerged last spring.
According to Morrison's five-stage reopening plan, fully or partially vaccinated travellers from P.E.I. will be able to visit Atlantic Canadian provinces starting June 27 without having to self-isolate when they return. Unvaccinated travellers will have a shorter self-isolation time, though details about just how long that will be have not been decided, she said.
That date, Morrison said, is contingent on having at least 80 per cent of the Island's eligible population vaccinated with a first dose, and on having 80 per cent of the province's vulnerable population — such as residents of long-term care facilities and people over 80 years old — fully vaccinated with two doses.
Beginning Aug. 8, fully vaccinated Canadians from outside Atlantic Canada can visit without self-isolating as long as they've been pre-approved for travel and fall into one of the province's existing categories of approved visitors.
"Those travel streams … are for compassionate reasons, for family connections, for work and for seasonal," Morrison said. Fully vaccinated Island residents would also be able to travel within the country and not have to self-isolate when they return, she added.
The Aug. 8 date is contingent on all Islanders aged 12 and over being fully vaccinated with two doses, she said. Morrison's reopening plan lists a date of Sept. 12 to lift the travel stream requirement and open the province fully to all Canadian visitors.
At all stages of the reopening plan, travellers will be required to sign a declaration form and get a COVID-19 test when they arrive, Morrison said. Proof of vaccination will also be required, though her team is still working out those details, she added.
By Sept. 12, asymptomatic, vaccinated travellers would no longer be required to get tested when arriving, she said. "There may still be some isolation and testing measures recommended for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers, particularly international, and that will be dependent on many of our federal measures," she said.
Morrison said she expects the public health state of emergency will also be lifted on that date.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King sat beside Morrison Thursday as she unrolled the reopening plan and said it was an "exciting day" for the province.
"I feel as if we are starting the last leg of this marathon," King said. The province's reopening plan, he said, will allow for the "careful return of doing the things that we like to do, like attending weddings, hosting backyard barbecues or hugging a loved one."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.
— By Sarah Smellie in St. John's.
The Canadian Press