Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said he found out about neighbouring New Brunswick’s decision to open its borders to the rest of Canada effective Thursday the same time everyone else did.
New Brunswick made the surprise announcement Wednesday, after initially expecting to welcome travellers from outside the Atlantic region and parts of Quebec on Canada Day. The province had only just opened its borders to travellers from Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., and parts of Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Rankin said his province, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador had agreed to give Atlantic Canadians the opportunity to travel freely throughout the region before reopening to the rest of Canada “much later.”
“Unfortunately, I was surprised that their [New Brunswick] risk tolerance is different than that,” Rankin said Thursday during a COVID-19 briefing.
Atlantic Canadians can now visit New Brunswick without prior approval or any isolation or testing requirements.
Travellers from the rest of the country who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are also not required to isolate or be tested for COVID, but they must register. There are isolation and testing requirements for unvaccinated Canadians from outside Atlantic Canada or certain regions of Quebec.
The changes took effect after New Brunswick hit its vaccination targets two weeks ahead of schedule, with 20.2 per cent of people aged 65 and older vaccinated with two doses, and 75.4 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers aged 12 and older vaccinated with one dose.
Confident in plans
Rankin said Nova Scotia has vaccination targets, but they do not dictate the pace of reopening the province.
“Even though we have benchmarks, just because you hit them doesn’t mean that you sacrifice the two-week incubation period,” he said.
“I’m very confident in our plan. We’re going to stick to our plan.”
He said the province is examining what measures need to be in place for the planned reopening of the Atlantic bubble on June 23.
Monitoring New Brunswick
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Nova Scotia will closely monitor the epidemiology in New Brunswick. He said it could take at least two weeks to see the impact of its border opening.
“They certainly are introducing a higher level of risk into their province,” Strang said during Thursday’s briefing.
He said epidemiologists in all four Atlantic provinces will be looking for significant increases in case numbers and identifying whether any cases are related to the highly contagious Delta variant.
“We’re watching carefully the potential impacts on their province because that has implications for us,” said Strang.
Could discourage tourism
Lorn Sheehan, a business professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax who studies tourism and travel, said the inconsistent border rules could discourage visitors to the region this summer.
Many tourists see the Maritimes especially as a single destination, he said, and they want to visit multiple provinces.
“If there’s different rules within that one destination, that’s very challenging,” Sheehan told CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon on Thursday.
He said there’s a lot of confusion in the industry right now. Tour bus operators in P.E.I., for example, worry they’ll have to navigate different quarantine rules as they cross borders.
“If they’re that confused, then how confused is the consumer?” said Sheehan.
He said that uncertainty, on top of the fear of contracting COVID-19, could result in many Canadians waiting until the last minute to book their summer vacations.