We all want to guard thee, Newfoundland (and Labrador). But maintaining provincial entry restrictions as they currently exist has the potential to do more long-term damage than keeping an artificial daily score of COVID-19 counts.
While we believe public health and government authorities have acted in the best interest of the public and are grateful for their work, we would encourage — now that systems are in place and awareness is broad — that there be a more expansive approach. By its very definition, public health is not a linear thing. Disease prevention and management is just one part. Our province is facing serious problems. Most would agree that mental health and economic sustainability are at the top of the list.
This province can live with COVID-19, still keep numbers low until a vaccine comes, allow for much needed family reunification and begin to lessen the economic sting of the pandemic if it implements some measured modifications to entry. The current course is not reasonable.
Close family members or businesspeople who have been tested before travelling here should be included, as long as they are also tested upon arrival.
Across the country, Canadians are following similar public health measures, from mask wearing to social distancing. Testing is readily accessible to nearly everyone. At any moment you can go online and find case counts anywhere in the country. Many regions outside of Atlantic Canada also have minuscule or non-existent case counts. Let’s use this data to our advantage. Create different categories of requirement for entry based on the region the person is coming from.
Close family members or businesspeople who have been tested before travelling here should be included, as long as they are also tested upon arrival. An additional test for COVID-19 could be required periodically while visiting. Make it predominately user-pay so as not to create additional burdens on taxpayers. An exemption for children, seniors or those not able to pay could be considered.
Establish bubbles for designated visitors during their visit. Upon entry the visitor could identify their social bubble for authorities. That bubble would be in line with the current provincial health allowance or initially more restrictive. Either way, this form of micro-bubbling allows for limited social interactions and contact tracing.
Public health authorities, elected officials and front-line workers are to be commended for their work. Our proposals are not meant to be critical but are intended to be constructive and balanced, to open thoughts and public opinion to adopting broader approaches. We are in this for the long haul and should not be paralyzed by fear. It is time to open up Newfoundland and Labrador to all Canadians and permanent residents. We need them, and certainly, we know, the country can always use a little more Newfoundland and Labrador.
Deirdre Ayre, head of operations, Other Ocean Group Canada
Tim Powers, vice-chair, Summa Strategies Canada, and managing director, Abacus Data