Despite assurances from provincial officials that opening the so-called Atlantic bubble on Friday was the right thing to do, there are many in Newfoundland and Labrador who disagree.
Social and traditional media have been carrying comments by people expressing fear and concern since the Atlantic bubble agreement was announced on June 24.
On Friday, Atlantic Canadians were free to travel without quarantine within the four Atlantic provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. According to the uptake in ferry bookings and flights, many in the region plan to take advantage of it.
Progressive Conservative MHA David Brazil, the party's critic for health and community services, said there are questions regarding the screening measures the province has in place in the expanded bubble.
According to reports, he said, there will be no health screening or questionnaire upon entry to the province from the other members of the bubble.
“This has us extremely concerned. Our province has sacrificed a great deal to flatten the curve and the lack of screening or even a basic questionnaire upon entry is simply unacceptable,” Brazil said. “Jurisdictions such as Iceland and New Zealand that have also been successful in flattening the curve have implemented testing regimes at their points of entry. It baffles us why we can’t implement something similar here at home.”
The provincial NDP caucus has written to Premier Dwight Ball with a list of questions about the government’s readiness to mitigate any negative effects from the Atlantic bubble and how it will protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“Since the announcement of the Atlantic bubble, we have heard concerns from our constituents and from people across the province that the province is moving too fast, and that we need to proceed more cautiously,” NDP MHA Jim Dinn said.
Dinn says the NDP is asking the premier to clarify the exact processes that will be in place to track or monitor travel by visitors.
“The people of our province need to be reassured that government has thought through the opening of the province and has taken steps to mitigate the risk of doing so,” Dinn said.
The Department of Health and Community Services reported again on Friday there have been no new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and no active cases, in the province.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said the province has no good reason not to bubble up with the Maritimes.
“These are challenging and uncertain times, and uncertainty breeds fear, there’s no doubt of that,” Fitzgerald said earlier this week.
“But our choices must reflect the science and not our fears. We have trusted the science to get us where we are today, and we must continue to do so.”
In a statement to The Telegram, St. John's Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said that because of the status of the pandemic in other provinces and in the United States, border patrols will have to be vigilant.
“I am, however, remaining hopeful for the necessary and continued social responsibility of each and every one of us that comes with opening up to our Maritime neighbours,” she stated.
St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen shared similar concerns.
“I’m a little bit cautious about it,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot here and we’ve done extremely well, in terms of dealing with the issue and flattening the curve.”
One of the bigger concerns for Breen is the lack of social distancing on flights.
“I just got invited today to the Atlantic mayors caucus meeting in September in Charlottetown,” he said. “(It’s) highly doubtful I’ll be going there, not (because) of the bubble, but it’s the flying portion of it that’s a concern for me. … But I’ll see how things go over the next couple of months.”
With the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, people need to continue to stay on guard and take precautions, he says.