Maritime provinces with few COVID-19 cases float in travel bubble, but public health experts call for caution


Two Maritime Prime Ministers interested in building a travel bubble like the one introduced in Europe to help restart their provincial economies in the shock of COVID-19, but it’s a move that public health experts say must be done. to do. with caution.

In a travel bubble, anyone who has not traveled in the past two weeks, is not infected and has not been in contact with a person tested positive for the disease can travel freely in other countries or regions participating in the hangout.

After months of travel restrictions, people living in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can move freely by land, air and sea in the region as part of the first travel bubble of the European Union.

Border guards continue to ask screening questions, but there is no mandatory quarantine period to ensure travelers do not develop symptoms of COVID-19.

“We had a little party here because the border is open again,” police and Estonian border guard Martin Maestule said on Friday after cutting a cake.

Infectious disease screeners say that every country or region participating in a travel bubble must have a low infection rate for the bubble to persist.

On Tuesday, more than 400 people demonstrated against New Brunswick’s travel restrictions on the bridge that separates the communities of Campbellton, New Brunswick, and the Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj First Nation in Quebec. (Serge Bouchard / Radio-Canada)

In the Baltic countries, the three countries combined reported fewer than 150 deaths from COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Northern Territories of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have not reported any new cases for at least a week.

Low infection rates have led to both New Brunswick Prime Minister Blaine Higgs and P.E.I. Prime Minister Dennis King will discuss the possibility of possibly forming a regional travel bubble involving the two provinces.

“It will be in a few weeks, two months I would say, probably at the end of June, July,” Higgs said last week in a virtual assembly of CBC News.

Risk looms

Since new cases can arise at any time, public health officials want to guarantee screening, contact tracing and physical distance before taking into account travel bubbles.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, Chief Medical Officer of Health for New Brunswick, said that a travel bubble could only happen after the outbreaks were brought under control and there were no active cases. Even then, the risk looms for travel imported from outside the province.

“If you were to include a province whose number was under control, you would treat them as a citizen of your own province,” said Russell.

“I think we would really only consider easing border measures in jurisdictions that currently have numbers or controls similar to ours. “

The Restigouche River in New Brunswick is a popular place for tourists. Travel may be limited to the Maritime provinces this summer due to the precautions to be taken with COVID-19. (Shane Fowler / CBC)

Currently, Russell has stated that those from outside New Brunswick, with a few exceptions, must self-isolate for 14 days, the COVID-19 incubation period.

Finally, said Russell, if N.B. and P.E.I. form a travel bubble, it could expand to the Maritimes if the number of cases in Nova Scotia drops and the common criteria are met.

The New Brunswick emergency declaration currently prohibits non-essential travel to the province to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Border protest

Tuesday, some Quebecers protested a bridge connecting New Brunswick, arguing against travel restrictions in the Maritimes prohibiting entry for reasons other than going to work. They advocate travel for essentials such as groceries, as well as family reunification.

Travel bubbles may sound good in principle, but experts say they are more difficult to implement.

Craig Jenne, Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary, said that the low burden of cases and the ability to restrict travel from New Brunswick to other Maritime provinces could help establish a travel bubble for this region.

“The safest is always about forty, even if you filter everyone. “

Jenne would like to see more random checks done in Maritime communities before a travel bubble forms to ensure that public servants have a representative sample of what is going on more broadly. He is concerned that people in remote areas of the region may not have timely access to diagnostic tests.

“The virus does not resist the wind”

“A virus does not walk around on its own. The virus does not pass from one part of the world to another. He’s coming with us, ”said Jenne.

In Australia and New Zealand, there is also talk of creating a travel bubble involving the two countries to boost their economies. On Wednesday, the Vietnamese tourist board also expressed interest in joining when it is safe.

Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Wellington, N.Z., called the idea of ​​a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand “ambitious.”

Baker said that despite active discussions by politicians in both countries and low rates of transmission, there are open questions about their low level to allow people to cross the border without quarantine.

“It could be something like two weeks. I say four weeks without any cases, ”said Baker. “It’s a pretty high bar. “

WATCH | Why the outside is safer with COVID-19

Andrew Chang asks an infectious disease doctor if it is safer to be indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1:02


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