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Newfoundland and Labrador premier tries to allay border fears

Chloe Puddister plays with the hair of her boyfriend, Hayden Goss, as the couple reunites in the baggage area of Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Thursday, July 2, 2020 after spending the last three-and-a-half months apart. Chloe had just arrived from a flight from St. John's.
Chloe Puddister plays with the hair of her boyfriend, Hayden Goss, as the couple reunites in the baggage area of Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Thursday, July 2, 2020 after spending the last three-and-a-half months apart. Chloe had just arrived from a flight from St. John's. - Tim Krochak
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

As controversy continues to swirl around the prospect of opening Canada’s domestic borders, Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier and health minister are striving to allay fears.

On Wednesday, the premier fielded questions about a date that was tossed out last month around the same time the province announced it was joining an Atlantic bubble.

The opening of Atlantic regional borders, which allows permanent residents of all four provinces to travel freely without self-isolating, took effect July 3.


We know that around the province right now there’s considerable fear in opening up those borders


But Dwight Ball said a proposed opening of all provincial borders on July 17 has not been part of recent discussions.

“We know that around the province right now there’s considerable fear in opening up those borders,” he said this week. “We recognize from a Newfoundland and Labrador perspective that the areas that will line up and have more travellers come into our province would be from provinces like Alberta, provinces like Ontario.”

However, he said there has been talk lately about when, or even if, that may happen.

“First and foremost, I can assure people in Newfoundland and Labrador, it will be the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that will be the priority and will be what will influence the decision made by all of us before we ease any more travel restrictions.”

Passengers wait in line to board Marine Atlantic’s MV Blue Puttees for Friday’s morning crossing to Port axe Basques, N.L. More than 30 passenger vehicles boarded the vessel for the first official crossing since the Atlantic bubble opened early Friday morning. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST - Jeremy Fraser
Passengers wait in line to board Marine Atlantic’s MV Blue Puttees for Friday’s morning crossing to Port axe Basques, N.L. More than 30 passenger vehicles boarded the vessel for the first official crossing since the Atlantic bubble opened early Friday morning. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST - Jeremy Fraser

Ban not total

Ball also touched on a common misconception about travel into and out of the province since a travel ban was implemented on May 15. At least 8,000 exemptions have been granted to non-residents, for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t include the fact that residents are free to travel outside the province and return again.

“Keep in mind we have a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that leave the province and go visit families in Alberta and Ontario and other places,” he said. “They can leave. There’s no restriction on leaving. The restriction is when they come back.”

Any person arriving from outside the Atlantic bubble, including those who’ve passed through the region from elsewhere, are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.


Premier Dwight Ball - David Maher
Premier Dwight Ball - David Maher

 


The premier also clarified that five new cases in P.E.I. last weekend stemmed from a U.S. citizen who had arrived legally in Halifax and was picked up by family members from P.E.I. The island province turned him back at its border, so he returned to self-isolate in Halifax. Another P.E.I. resident was confirmed positive on Thursday, stemming from the same cluster.

“I think the officials within all of the Maritime provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. — will clearly say and articulate that what happened with this traveller was not at all connected to the Atlantic bubble,” Ball said.

New Brunswick also reported one new case on Thursday, stemming from travel.


I have mixed feelings about airplanes, and I travel a lot


Air travel

Meanwhile, a nursing professor at Memorial University had some thoughts this week on the safety of flying with strangers as airlines start filling planes again.

The issue made headlines last weekend when a Halifax man decided to walk off a plane rather than fly in close quarters with passengers from outside the Atlantic bubble.

“I have mixed feelings about airplanes, and I travel a lot,” Donna Moralejo, who specializes in infection control, said in an interview.

Moralejo said the air in a plane is actually safer than most households because of built-in filtration systems. But surface contacts must be avoided, and close proximity means masks are essential.

“It’s probably not as unsafe as it sounds, given the airflow, but it’s less than ideal, especially on longer flights,” she said.

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.

peter.jackson@thetelegram.com

@pjackson_nl

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