It was last month when Nova Scotia premier Iain Rankin first hinted that the Atlantic bubble might be returning in April. But he gave a caveat: “As always, we will be guided by public health as safety is always our primary concern,” he said on March 9 in a COVID-19 media briefing.
A few weeks later, on March 20, Rankin invited New Brunswickers to visit without restriction—dropping the two-week quarantine requirement for them—giving Nova Scotians a preview of what the bubble could look like. “We continue to have low case numbers in our province,” said Rankin, “and we know that restrictions have been difficult for people and businesses in our Amherst border communities.”
He also set a date of April 19 in Nova Scotians’ minds for the Atlantic bubble opening. And while it was tentative, Nova Scotians latched onto the idea that we could visit family, book vacations nearby and explore the rest of the east coast this spring.
That hope, that pipe dream, that glorious illusion—whatever you want to call it—lasted until Tuesday April 13, when plans for a Bubblicious™spring were all but shut down.
“We had hoped that on Monday April the 19th we’d have the ability to move across our provinces without self-isolating in the Atlantic,” Rankin said at the yesterday's C19 presser. “This is looking unlikely right now.”
While he didn’t fully confirm the bubble was a no-go, the premier said he would be soon having a conversation with the other Atlantic premiers about the situation. “Right now we are looking toward pushing back the reopening to sometime in May. It’s the right move right now,” Rankin added.
Later in the day Tuesday, the Council of Atlantic Premiers issued a release saying that the bubble’s new intended date was May 3. Or maybe May 10, depending on a chat the four politicians will have at the end of April, and what the epidemiology looks like at that time.
The bubble postponement is mostly due to recent spikes in cases in New Brunswick, including some closer to the border than the Edmundston-area spike we were warned about last week. “Now we are seeing some variant cases in Saint John, and more worrying, we’re seeing some cases under investigation in the Moncton area,” Rankin said Tuesday.
Nova Scotia’s open borders to New Brunswick are also officially closing. As of 8am Thursday, April 16, travellers from the sibling province will need to self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in NS.
But Nova Scotia’s not completely blameless for the bubble popping either. Monday’s total of 46 active cases across the province is the most NS has had so far in 2021, and today there are still 42 active cases.
“Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 caseload is the highest I’ve seen in a while, and I know this is making people anxious,” said top doc Robert Strang at the Tuesday briefing. “We’re all seeing what’s happening across the country and we do not want it to happen here.”
Strang says although virus activity in Nova Scotia and other provinces is increasing, our protocols like self-isolation, mandatory testing and limits on gatherings are “working exactly as intended.”
“Please be assured that public health is monitoring it all very closely,” he added Tuesday. “I don’t take any COVID-19 activity lightly, but I am not sounding the alarm.”
While New Brunswick is likely on the outs, other Atlantic provinces could still be in the race. When asked, Rankin said there was a chance we could have a NS-PEI-Newfoundland and Labrador bubble instead.
“I’ve only had just a very brief discussion with one of the premiers, and we intend to continue with our self-isolation with New Brunswick well into the foreseeable future,” he said. “And as of now Newfoundland and PEI are fine, so I’ve asked the question and I’ll ask it again when we have our meeting, but that’s something that they’ll have to figure out if they have comfort with.”