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EDITORIAL: COVID surge left no choice but to burst Atlantic Bubble

Michael de Adder cartoon for Nov. 16, 2020. Atlantic bubble, rise in COVID-19 cases
Michael de Adder's cartoon for Nov. 16, 2020.

Some will say that once a New York Times article appeared, lauding the Atlantic Bubble’s success in keeping COVID-19 at bay, the arrangement was as good as doomed.

The truth is that bubbles — even those that, during a pandemic, allow people to travel freely throughout a region like ours — are fragile things.

Sooner or later, they pop. Sometimes more loudly than others.

With the second wave of COVID-19 underway, the coronavirus is surging across the country, including in Nova Scotia, which on Tuesday reported 37 new COVID-19 cases, and New Brunswick, which reported six.

It is every government’s responsibility to do what it thinks is best for its citizens.

Who then can blame the government of Newfoundland and Labrador for deciding that, as of Wednesday, anyone travelling there from elsewhere in the Atlantic region has to self-isolate for 14 days, just like visitors from the rest of Canada? Or, earlier this week, P.E.I. announcing it is suspending all non-essential travel to and from the province until at least Dec. 7?

For now, the Atlantic Bubble has burst, even if, as of Wednesday, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were still allowing people to move freely between their provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey called the Bubble a “source of pride” for the region, which is true.

Despite the recent surge, the strategy has helped keep us safe since it began on July 3, and also allowed the region’s businesses to reopen more quickly from lockdown than in other parts of the country.

Both Furey’s province and P.E.I. will be watching the mainland to decide whether to reconstitute the bigger free-travel zone.

So it is up to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to prove they deserve to be invited back into that exclusive gang. (Stanching the flow of travel between two provinces whose economies are so deeply entwined may not be prudent.)

In Nova Scotia, the focus, instead, is on downtown Halifax, ground zero in the province’s battle against the pandemic. Given Tuesday’s soaring COVID-19 numbers, the Nova Scotia government had no choice but to act decisively.

On Tuesday, it called on anyone who was recently in a Halifax bar or restaurant past 10 p.m., or who works in one, to get a COVID-19 test.

It also announced that it was closing all restaurants and bars in the Halifax area to dine-in customers, as well as shutting down libraries, exercise facilities, organized sports, and faith-based gatherings, and sharply limiting the numbers of customers allowed into stores.

A pause, we think, is a very good idea, particularly as we enter the normally ultra-social Christmas holidays. It will keep revellers and shoppers safe, and also protect the hard-working staffers who keep us watered and fed.

Tuesday, the government announced something else that will hopefully help tamp down the virus’s spread stream: a $1,000 fine for every person found gathering together beyond the government-mandated limit of five.

That will help prevent situations like the one in Halifax on the weekend, when some 60 young people partied at a house on Edward Street in the city’s south end — and only a single $1,000 ticket was issued.

Those hefty tickets will make people think twice about flouting the COVID rules, which will help keep the rest of us safe.


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