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LETTER: Atlantic Bubble — hoping for the best, but fearing the worst

Air passengers arriving from a flight from St. John's speak to a member of provincial heath enforcement staff, in the baggage area of Halifax Stanfield International Airport last week. SALTWIRE FILE PHOTO
Air passengers arriving from a flight from St. John's speak to a member of provincial heath enforcement staff, in the baggage area of Halifax Stanfield International Airport last week. SALTWIRE FILE PHOTO

I absolutely understand the potential economic benefits of the Atlantic Bubble, particularly as it relates to our tourism industry. I also fully appreciate the fact that there are many people among us with family members in other parts of Atlantic Canada they would love to see.

However, I do have serious concerns about the significant risk that opening our borders presents from a public health perspective, and fear that all the sacrifices we have made to this point will be in vain.

The vast majority of us in this province are living on an island, and there are currently zero known cases of COVID-19. Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the safest places to be on planet earth thanks to the diligence of our healthcare experts and the commitment of our citizens to crush the curve.

The question is, should we risk all we have accomplished for the potential to gain a few tourism dollars? Would we not have been better off sticking to our staycation strategy? How many people who would have been forced to staycation this year will now decide to travel to other parts of Atlantic Canada, thus cancelling out the added benefit of any potential incoming tourist dollars?

To the best of my knowledge, COVID-19 can’t blow into the province in the wind or float across to the province via the Atlantic Ocean. It can only return if we open the borders and allow travel in and out of the province, and the risk gets even greater of course when we bring an end to the 14-day self-isolation rule as proposed.

The question is, should we risk all we have accomplished for the potential to gain a few tourism dollars? Would we not have been better off sticking to our staycation strategy? How many people who would have been forced to staycation this year will now decide to travel to other parts of Atlantic Canada, thus cancelling out the added benefit of any potential incoming tourist dollars?

I also find it difficult to swallow the fact that we are prepared to take this risk while at the same time we continue to keep our own families separated, not able to visit loved ones in acute care, personal care and long term care, not able to wake our deceased family members, not permitted to have a proper wedding, citizens denied required healthcare procedures, specialist appointments and surgeries, so much uncertainty in our education system, children unable to participate in sports and other activities, community festivals and celebrations shuttered, and the list goes on and on.

Given the fact we are supposedly COVID-free, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep the borders closed and return to business as usual? Wouldn’t opening up all business at full capacity in a COVID-free environment be safer and produce greater economic results than opening the flood gates to potential COVID-19 carriers from outside the province?

Our government has obviously decided to roll the dice on this one, and while I obviously hope this experiment works out for the best, I do fear the worst. This may indeed benefit the tourism industry in the short term, but if it results in another wave of the virus, it may actually have the opposite effect. Time will tell.

Paul Lane, independent MHA,
District of Mount Pearl-Southlands

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