Highway enforcement staff will be shutting the door to tourists hoping to ride out the coronavirus pandemic on P.E.I.
In an evening briefing, Steven Myers, Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy said provincial staff will be performing more stringent screening at the Confederation Bridge and will be turning away non-essential travelers to the Island. The screening will be conducted by highway safety staff and other law enforcement and will be in addition to the existing public health screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
Beginning Wednesday evening, travelers who are not essential workers, truck drivers, residents or students returning from out-of-Province travelers or residents returning from medical appointments will be asked to turn around on the P.E.I. side of the bridge. An exception will be made for some on compassionate grounds.
"Don't come if it's not essential. You are going to be turned away," Myers said.
Myers said the new restrictions are being put in place due to concerns from Chief Health Officer Heather Morrison.
"We have reports all over the Island of people returning back to their cottages. We are hearing different reports of people looking to stay in rental properties across Prince Edward Island,” Myers said.
Myers said he has also expressed concern to his counterparts in other provinces about non-essential travellers who continue to cross the US border into Canada.
In the same briefing, Matthew MacKay, Minister of Economic Growth and Tourism announced a new program to provide short-term relief for workers affected by the pandemic.
A new COVID-19 Income Support Fund will provide a one-time payment of $750 to individuals who have lost a job, have been laid off, or had Employment Insurance benefits expire since March 13. The program is designed to provide immediate assistance for individuals.
"It's a bridge measure to get us to the federal programs rolling out," MacKay said.
Only individuals who have applied for either federal EI or the recently announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be eligible for this one-time payment, MacKay said.
Although applications are not yet being accepted, further information on this program can be found at princeedwardisland.ca/covidforbusiness
Many Island post-secondary students will not be eligible for this benefit, as most will not be eligible for either EI or CERB programs.
But MacKay said the province is currently planning to establish a benefit specifically for students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
P.E.I. COVID-19 income support programs by the numbers
Emergency Income Relief Fund (self-employed)
1,000 approved applications, $850,000 dispersed.
Emergency Relief Worker Assistance Fund (workers w/ reduced hours)
173 approved applications (businesses), 880 recipients (workers), $150,000 dispersed
Emergency Working Capital Financing (business loans)
70 loans approved, $3,100,000 dispersed
Employee Gift Card Program (workers, Sobeys grocery cards)
1108 approved applications (businesses), 7,643 gift cards dispersed (workers)
Additional Financing to Community Business Development Corporations
Commercial lease rent deferral program (commercial landlords)
2 approved applications
Estimated one-month cost to P.E.I. of announced relief programs:
Source: Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, April 1, 2020