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P.E.I. stays out of Atlantic bubble until Dec. 21

Premier Dennis King announced P.E.I. would remain outside the Atlantic travel bubble until Dec. 21. Stu Neatby/The Guardian
Premier Dennis King announced P.E.I. would remain outside the Atlantic travel bubble until Dec. 21. Stu Neatby/The Guardian - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

P.E.I. will stay outside of the Atlantic travel bubble for another two weeks.

In the legislature on Thursday, Premier Dennis King confirmed that the province will continue to maintain travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements for individuals arriving from the other Atlantic provinces until Dec. 21.

He said the decision is based on a recommendation from the province’s Chief Public Health Office.

King said he had discussed the Atlantic bubble with chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison in recent days.

"The epidemiology around the region seems to be neutralizing a little bit, but certainly not to the extent where we feel comfortable moving beyond that," King said.

"She recommended to me that we extend for an extra two weeks and review again. So we would be keeping that closed until December 21st."

King also addressed the disruption the measure would take on family gatherings.

He said he has spoken to Education Minister Brad Trivers about looking at extending the Christmas break for school students.

The provincial government announced plans to pull out of the Atlantic travel bubble on Nov. 23, in the midst of outbreaks of the virus in three regions in New Brunswick and within the Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia. The move meant that anyone travelling from other provinces would be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Non-essential travel has been actively discouraged by public health authorities.

Last weekend, public health authorities announced a high school student at Charlottetown Rural had tested positive for the virus. After a flurry of more than 1,000 tests were conducted of contacts of the student and Rural staff members, no other cases have since been detected.

School resumed as normal at Charlottetown Rural on Monday.

King said the decision to extend the time period of P.E.I.’s withdrawal from the Atlantic bubble was based on the rise in cases in the region as a whole, as well as concerns around community spread.

He admitted the Charlottetown Rural case played a role in the decision to maintain travel restrictions.

"For Islanders, and for me in particular, that would be one that, I would agree, made us pause for a second and think 'Oh gosh!'” King said.

"It's important to us here because it's inside of the contained Island that we have."

King said he informed the other Atlantic premiers of the decision on Thursday.

"I would expect that Newfoundland and Labrador will probably follow suit for the time being. The other provinces I don't know yet," he said.

"We do feel we're kind of in this together as an Atlantic region."

King noted the Atlantic bubble has provided some benefit for the economy. He encouraged Islanders to support local retailers and businesses during the holiday season.

He also indicated that after Dec. 21, the preference of regional leaders would be to reopen the Atlantic travel bubble if spread of COVID-19 can be contained.

"Based on what we have seen over the last nine months, I think that if we can get the region to a level where we are comfortable, I suspect that's the easiest path back to it, is to get to that level," King said.

Stu Neatby is the political reporter for The Guardian. 

[email protected]

@stu_neatby

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