2 Atlantic provinces commit to open borders, but 1 tightens up amid COVID-19 wave
Premiers for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick said this weekend they will keep borders open, but Newfoundland and Labrador is bringing in a five-day isolation period for any travellers.
Two Atlantic premiers say they don’t see the need to tighten border measures as COVID-19 cases rise across the region and country, but a third province is taking that step.
Both Tim Houston of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs told CBC News this weekend that closing interprovincial and national borders isn’t a good move.
They said most premiers across the country agreed with that point during a call this week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about curbing the spread of the Omicron variant.
“The reality is the variant is in Nova Scotia. It’s moving within Nova Scotia, so there’s no point in trying to take some action to keep it out,” Houston told CBC’s The House on Saturday.
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Houston said although Nova Scotia is seeing the highest daily case numbers of the virus ever, the right public health restrictions are in place to keep people safe, such as keeping social circles to 20 people and bringing back physical distancing indoors and outdoors.
N.S. reported 476 new cases of the virus on Sunday, but there is no current active case number available. As of Friday, seven people were in hospital, including two in intensive care.
People across Nova Scotia and throughout the country are exhausted by the pandemic, Houston said, and politicians realize they have to ensure restrictions aren’t pushing people past their tipping point.
“We always want to be conscious of losing people, and having people kind of give up and say, ‘Well, I’m not listening anymore because it just doesn’t matter,'” Houston said.
Higgs also said that New Brunswick has no intention of closing borders to other Canadian provinces.
But Higgs told Rosemary Barton on Sunday he was happy to see that all international travellers now have to get a COVID-19 molecular test before entering Canada, given his province’s proximity to Maine.
N.B. reported 108 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,258.
There were no new cases of Omicron reported in the province Sunday, leaving the number of Omicron cases at 30.
“Our case count is still primarily the Delta [variant,]” Higgs said. “It has been pretty consistently and stubbornly Delta [now for] several weeks.”
New Brunswick’s current restrictions include limiting contacts to a steady group of 20, physical distancing in public spaces, and reduced capacity at venues such as movie theatres, sporting arenas and casinos.
But on Sunday, Newfoundland and Labrador announced new restrictions for travellers at a press conference with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald and Premier Andrew Furey.
The province announced 61 new cases since Friday. There are nine confirmed cases of Omicron and 34 presumptive cases.
Effective Tuesday at 3 p.m. NT, fully vaccinated travellers will need to isolate for five days after they arrive, and take rapid tests. Children under five don’t have to have a test as long as their parents are doing so, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said these measures are temporary during this “critical period.”
Furey said this decision comes at an incredibly difficult time for businesses, but it’s in an effort to protect the economy, hospital and ICU capacity. The province also announced schools will open Monday — unless they’ve already been closed — but classes are cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Prince Edward Island, no changes to their border have been announced. Like other provinces, P.E.I. brought in tighter restrictions on Saturday, including limiting capacity in public spaces such as retailers, gyms, theatres to 50 per cent.
There is a new limit of 10 people to a restaurant table, and businesses must also physically space tables.
P.E.I. announced 13 cases on Saturday, and the number of active cases will be updated on Monday. There were 75 active cases on Friday.