Heading into P.E.I.’s first weekend under slightly loosened physical distancing measures, chief public health officer Heather Morrison provided some reasons that the province chose not to allow households to adopt one other household into their “bubble."
On Thursday, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador released its plans for loosening coronavirus-related public health restrictions. The province’s plan allows individuals or households to pick one other household, or “bubble” to interact with. New Brunswick adopted a similar two-household model in its own plan. Nova Scotia, which is seeing more significant spread of the virus than the rest of Atlantic Canada, has not released plans for easing restrictions.
P.E.I.’s first phase of easing restrictions, which came into effect Friday, allows outdoor gatherings of up to five, as long as all maintain a physical distance of two metres. Unlike the double-bubble model, all interactions outside of people in one’s household still have to maintain a two-metre physical distance.
Morrison said allowing the gatherings permitted more social interaction than the double-bubble model.
"We do think there is some flexibility in not doing just a bubble model for us. It's also based on our epidemiology that we think we can actually have contact with more than just one family or one household," Morrison said.
Morrison said this flexibility could meet more social, personal and mental health needs.
“The other advantage is you don't have to chose between family – your brother or your sister. You don't need to make that choice,” Morrison said, responding to a media question in French.
Morrison used the example of being able to visit her mother outdoors on a deck, but also go for a walk with a friend and their child, as long as a safe distance was observed.
"Not all of those things I would be able to do just with one household. All of those things could be important for a family," Morrison said.
Morrison said the choice of outdoor gatherings over double-bubble households was not made because of enforcement considerations, but she said it was easier for neighbours to observe outdoor gatherings.
"I know many Islanders have really been watching each other and looking after each other. That is sort of one part of it, but it wasn't what led to that decision," she said.
Morrison said she did not see the possibility of adopting a two-bubble model in later phases of the ease-back, as it would reduce the ability for contact instead of expand it. The second phase of P.E.I.’s plan to ease public health restrictions allows for indoor gatherings of up to 5.
There were no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. P.E.I.’s total number of cases stands at 27, 24 of whom are considered recovered. A total of 3,055 tests have been conducted since early March.