As Atlantic Canada begins its travel bubble, are visitors really welcome?
|Toronto Star 02 Jul 2020 at 20:05|
When Canada’s Atlantic premiers announced a travel bubble for the four eastern provinces last week, Elayne Lord’s business suddenly picked up.
Lords Seaside Cottages in Cape Traverse is a seven-kilometre drive southeast of Borden-Carleton, where the Confederation Bridge sets down in P.E.I. after spanning the Northumberland Strait from New Brunswick.
Almost immediately after the travel bubble announcement, Lord received cottage bookings from four New Brunswick families for this first weekend. Booking 40 per cent of her units in one fell swoop — she has 10 cottages on seven acres of land — was a relief in a summer in which the pickings have been slim.
“It’s like three nights, two nights, that kind of stuff … usually I’m (renting) weekly,” said Lord. “(But now) when somebody says, ‘Can you take two nights?’ I’m like, ‘Whatever. I’ll take it.’ I’ll take whatever. Get me through the summer to get me through the winter.”
But with that relief came trepidation, as the island on Friday opens to outsiders for the first time in almost four months.
After isolating itself, P.E.I. has only had 27 coronavirus cases; and the last sufferer recovered several weeks ago. The island has been COVID-19-free since then.
Some, like Lord, are worried that streak might be about to end.
So she’s bought a board to tell visitors they’re not welcome if they can’t follow social-distancing rules. She’s stocked up on hand sanitizers in all the cottages.
“It’s a little nerve-racking,” she said Thursday.
She can’t afford to be sick, because with so few bookings she hasn’t been able to hire anyone to help out with the cottages. On top of that, she’s looking after her elderly mother.
“If people don’t want to play by the rules, they’re going to be asked to leave,” she said. “That’s just the way it is right?
“My mom’s 88. I look after her. So I need to be safe and everybody that comes needs to be safe.”
While the Atlantic travel bubble is a cause for small consternation, balanced with the need for business, the next potential stage, for people like Lord, is even more troubling.
“I really don’t want the Americans coming over,” she said. “And I really don’t want Quebec and Ontario. I know that sounds bad or whatever, but it’s just too dangerous.”
In Newfoundland, St. John’s resident David Brake was in the process of planning a late-July trip to Prince Edward Island with his two children on the eve of the travel bubble’s opening.
While he would usually plan a vacation further afield, Brake decided to take advantage of the travel bubble this year and visit a new province, scheduling a flight to Halifax, with plans to stop in New Brunswick on the way to P.E.I.
He said he’s confident the trip will be safe for his family, given the low coronavirus case numbers at the moment.
But he’s pondering how his holiday might be perceived by neighbours upon his return, with many Newfoundlanders still skeptical about whether it’s safe to venture off the island that has so far beaten back the virus.
“If I’m not isolated because nobody asked me to, am I going to be a pariah for two weeks? Are my children going to be a pariah for two weeks?” he asked.
An online petition asking Newfoundland and Labrador to keep its borders closed has generated nearly 15,000 signatures this week.
“Our province has been slowly healing and going back to normal, we want to keep it that way,” the petition reads. “This is not the time.”
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health, addressed fears that the province is moving too fast in a news conference this week, pointing to low case numbers while encouraging residents to trust in science.
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Speaking after a cabinet meeting Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil addressed concerns about the bubble, telling Nova Scotians the economic opportunity won’t come at the expense of their health.
“Our tourism sector needs this, and we need to try to make it work, but I want to reassure all of you that if we see a spike of COVID, we will re-evaluate,” McNeil said.
For those planning trips to another province, some identification and preventive measures will be required.
Adults travelling to Nova Scotia must show proof of residency in one of the four provinces in order to enter without having to isolate for 14 days.
Prince Edward Island is asking visitors to fill out a form with details including proof of residence, health declarations and planned arrival and departure dates for each person.
New Brunswick has a similar pre-registration for travel planned, but it is not online yet, and the province has advised travellers to be prepared for lineups for the next several days.
Newfoundland and Labrador will require two pieces of ID establishing residency.
Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation running ferry services between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, said it’s seen a spike in bookings, with 3,000 reservations booked in the first six days following the Atlantic bubble announcement.
A statement said the bump “exhausted” capacity, which had been limited to allow for proper distancing and adherence to public health measures. The company will be slowly increasing passenger limits in coming weeks.
While tourism operators welcomed the news, some say the Atlantic bubble won’t bring in enough revenue for their businesses to survive.
Carol Alderdice, president of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said visitors from within the region won’t be enough to help struggling businesses through the difficult year.
She said Atlantic Canadians typically account for just over 30 per cent of tourism visits in the province, and most operators are eager to see restrictions on entry eased for visitors from elsewhere in Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec.
“It’s definitely not enough to make up for the season, absolutely not,” Alderdice said from Fredericton.