‘We’re not there yet’: Atlantic bubble to stay closed as premiers disagree on popping date

Nova Scotia’s tourism season is half-over, but Premier Stephen McNeil says now is not the time to pop the Atlantic bubble and allow Canadians from other provinces to enter the region without self-isolating.

McNeil had originally hoped to open Nova Scotia to the rest of the country by mid-July, in tandem with New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

But Atlantic premiers have not agreed on a date, McNeil told reporters on Friday, despite low COVID-19 case numbers throughout the region.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “I think part of it is obviously continuing to make sure we can control the virus as it comes into our province, but we’ve heard from citizens who have a level of anxiety. We need to work with that, that’s also part of our health.”

Read more: Nova Scotia hopes mandatory masks rule creates ‘standard’ without need for enforcement

As McNeil works with his Atlantic counterparts on a date for bursting the bubble, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said efforts are underway to improve security at the border while the bubble remains in place.

That includes cracking down — to the best of the government’s ability — on those who are not following existing self-isolation requirements and improving the efficiency of that process by prioritizing travellers who pose the greatest risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Our first priority for any follow-up is international arrivals. They’re a much higher risk, especially coming from the U.S. than any other part of Canada,” Strang explained.

1:53 N.S. parents worry bursting Atlantic bubble will impact school reopening

N.S. parents worry bursting Atlantic bubble will impact school reopening

As it stands, the province has adopted a policy of checking up on people who have to self-isolate with phone calls, and sending law enforcement if they fail to pick up the phone three times.

Since that measure was enacted, however, reports have come in from travellers who say no one has called them to make sure they’ve followed the rules.

“We certainly acknowledge we’ve had some gaps and some challenges,’ said Strang. “I can’t say that everybody is getting a call every day…and as I said we’re trying to shift to some automated ways to do this.

“You don’t do this overnight, you know implementing those automated ways, but we’re working to make that more effective.”

Read more: New Brunswick announces that it will open border to Quebec communities for day trips

Nova Scotia’s state of emergency is set to expire next week, but McNeil said it’s likely the order will be expanded, with some adaptations.

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