Atlantic premiers delay reopening of regional travel bubble until at least May 3

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CHARLOTTETOWN — Atlantic Canada's premiers announced on Tuesday they were delaying the reopening of the regional travel bubble by at least two weeks because of rising COVID-19 cases and the presence of more transmissible variants.

The four premiers issued a news release after holding a teleconference, stating the reopening of the bubble would be delayed from April 19 to May 3 at the earliest.

"The decision is based upon expert advice from the region’s chief medical officers of health," the release stated, adding that the premiers will meet again at the end of April to decide whether to further delay the reopening.

"This delay will support a continued focus on addressing local outbreaks and the rollout of vaccination programs across the region," they said in the joint statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nova Scotia Premier Premier Iain Rankin hinted at what was to come when he announced his province was reimposing restrictions for travellers from New Brunswick. Beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, all visitors to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

He said his province is concerned about the potential spread of variants of the virus in New Brunswick following a recent outbreak in the Edmundston, N.B., area.

"Now we are seeing some variant cases in Saint John and, more worrying, we are seeing some cases under investigation in the Moncton area," Rankin said.

The so-called Atlantic bubble was introduced last summer as a way for the region's residents to travel freely between the four provinces without having to isolate for 14 days.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King told reporters Tuesday that his province has so far been spared a third wave of COVID-19. "But there is regional evidence in Atlantic Canada that is becoming more and more concerning with each and every day," he said.

The province's chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, reported no new cases on the Island Tuesday.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters earlier in the day that the reopening of the bubble likely won't wait until all the residents of his province have been offered at least one dose of vaccine, which he said should happen by the end of June.

"The Atlantic bubble was very successful," Higgs said. "And if we get our numbers back under control here, I wouldn't want to wait until the end of June."

New Brunswick reported four new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday: one in the Saint John region and three in the Edmundston area, which is under lockdown.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials reported one new COVID-19 infection Tuesday, bringing the province's active case count to 11.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia reported six new infections and 45 active cases across the province. Five of the new cases were related to international travel, and the other was linked to domestic travel outside the Atlantic region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.

— By Keith Doucette in Halifax with files from Sarah Smellie.

The Canadian Press

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