Premier Dwight Ball says he understands the desire of New Brunswick’s premier to open that province’s borders to the Gaspé region of Quebec, but wouldn’t say whether he endorses it.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that we would be OK with that,” Ball said Wednesday during the weekly COVID-19 briefing.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday he’d like to allow non-quarantine travel with the Gaspésie region by the end of this week.
“That is a similar scenario to what we have in Labrador,” Ball said, pointing to the two border points at Lab West and southern Labrador.
"If anything is to change with travel restrictions, whether it’s the Atlantic bubble or further expansion, we will make sure that you are informed well in advance," — Premier Dwight Ball
In those cases, however, travellers from Quebec must be residents of the border region and cannot travel to any other part of Labrador or the island. It’s not clear what the restrictions would be in New Brunswick.
Neither premier has an appetite to more broadly open Atlantic Canadian borders to the rest of the country, however.
“We’re not anxious to get there right now,” Ball said.
The opening of domestic borders in the country came up after Atlantic premiers tossed out July 17 as a possible date for it. Since then, Ball and others have emphasized it only represented the earliest possible date.
It was chosen because it represented the maximum incubation period for COVID-19 — 14 days — from July 3, when the Atlantic bubble took effect.
Permanent residents of all four provinces are free to travel across borders without the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“Rest assured, if anything is to change with travel restrictions, whether it’s the Atlantic bubble or further expansion, we will make sure that you are informed well in advance,” Ball said.
Please be kind
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald pleaded with residents to have compassion with those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Her comments came on the heels of social media scorn heaped on a man who tested positive last week after travelling home to Newfoundland from work in the United States. He remains the province’s only positive case.
“It is impossible for us to know the personal circumstances of those around us and people who are unfortunate enough to contract this disease need our support and our understanding, not our judgment and disdain,” Fitzgerald said.
It’s not just a question of morals, but of practicality, she said.
“If people who test positive for COVID-19 feel vilified, others will most certainly feel reluctant to come forward if they have symptoms. And we need to know about cases of this virus in order to prevent future outbreaks.”
Fitzgerald also took questions Wednesday about the different public health decisions taken in this province with regard to crowd sizes.
The rules on crowd sizes vary between Atlantic provinces, including the maximum allowed for indoor and outdoor weddings.
Fitzgerald said weddings, like funerals, represent a different risk because of their emotional nature. Friends and family members are reuniting, and are inclined to engage each other for longer periods and are even tempted to hug or kiss.
“The longer people are together in an enclosed space, the higher the chance of transmission,” she said.
Asked whether she would go to a bar, Fitzgerald grinned and said she likely wouldn’t, but for “different reasons.”
“Whether or not I should go to a bar shouldn’t factor into what the decision should be. They should be making that decision for themselves based on the risk,” she said.
Anyone who feels the risk has gotten too high at any point should probably leave, she said.
In other developments Wednesday:
• Ball said the RCMP detained two foreign nationals who arrived in Makkovik earlier this week on a sailboat flying Norwegian colours. The two were taken to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and federal officials are investigating.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram