With the Atlantic bubble coming into effect Friday at 12:01 a.m., Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison laid out guidelines for Islanders planning to travel out of province and what will be required of people from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador planning to visit P.E.I.
Under the Atlantic bubble, residents of the four provinces will be able to travel within the region without having to self-isolate.
She said visitors to P.E.I. will, however, be required to submit an online declaration before they begin their journey. Morrison suggested visitors fill out the declaration one to two days prior to their trip and print out a physical copy. The declarations, Morrison said, will be verified at the point of entry.
Visitors will also undergo health screenings upon arrival and will be given information pamphlets outlining restrictions for their stay. Morrison encouraged visitors to travel at off-peak times.
For Islanders planning to travel, Morrison said she anticipates they will have to fill out self-declaration forms to get into New Brunswick, and that identification, like a driver's licence, will also likely be required.
She said she has a call with her regional counterparts later Tuesday and expected to discuss some more of the details about getting into other provinces.
Morrison noted that health measures may differ in other provinces and said Islanders should bring masks with them.
"Islanders should not travel within the bubble if they are sick, and it's very important that Islanders continue to practise good handwashing, physical distancing and other health measures we've had in place," she said.
No declaration for returning Islanders
Islanders returning from other provinces in the region will not need a declaration form to get back in, but they will go through a health screening.
Morrison said officials at public health, highway safety and Confederation Bridge have been working on a strategy to avoid backups at the bridge.
People arriving will be organized into different lanes depending on whether they are tourists, Islanders, or essential workers, for example, and will be met by health screeners.
We have planned for this as we have learned to live with COVID-19. — Dr. Heather Morrison
Morrison said there would be about three screeners per lane in an effort to expedite the process. A lane will be set aside for visitors without declarations.
"This is based on anticipated traffic and we looked at last year's traffic in July," she said, noting they have a rough idea of how much of that traffic was from in the region.
She said once the province sees how the Atlantic bubble goes, it will consider the possibility of an expansion to bring more provinces into the bubble.
'We will be ready'
While Morrison began her Tuesday briefing by noting it's been more than two months since P.E.I. has seen a new case of COVID-19, she said new cases will likely emerge.
If and when that happens, she said there will be anxiety and disappointment. But her office is "prepared to respond and do so quickly," she said. "We will be ready."
Morrison said the Chief Public Health Office is bracing for cases as health restrictions are eased.
"We have planned for this as we have learned to live with COVID-19," she said.
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