CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island is tightening border restrictions in an effort to limit the number of new COVID-19 cases in the province.
Effective immediately, most non-resident travel to the Island from outside Atlantic Canada is on hold until at least May 17. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is recommending Islanders avoid non-essential travel.
"We need to buy more time," Morrison told reporters Monday.
"These measures are intended to further reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19 and lower the likelihood that people could come here and get sick with COVID-19, putting an additional strain on our health-care resources," she said.
Morrison said seasonal residents who had been approved to arrive before May 17 will need to show results of a negative COVID-19 test that had been taken within 72 hours of their arrival. She said those travellers will be tested a second time during the 14-day isolation period.
"New pre-travel applications for seasonal residents from outside of Atlantic Canada will be processed over the next month. However, tentative dates for arrival will be after May 17," she said.
Rotational workers and truck drivers will need to isolate until they receive a negative test result — even if they have been vaccinated, Morrison said.
"I know these measures are not what people want to hear," she said. "We would much rather hear about what we can do to open up our province for the spring and to plan and welcome and visit with friends off-Island."
Morrison reported three new cases of COVID-19 in the province Monday. All three cases, she said, involve people who arrived in the province from travel outside the Atlantic region.
The new measures announced Monday are scheduled to last until May 17 — well after the May 3 proposed date to reopen the Atlantic bubble, which would allow residents of Atlantic Canada to travel freely within the region without having to isolate.
Premier Dennis King told reporters the new travel restrictions target people from outside the region. King said he still wants to have unrestricted travel within Atlantic Canada, but only when it's safe to do so.
The premier said the bubble isn't his top priority right now.
"We have to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep individuals safe and to try to do our best to push COVID back and if that requires a little bit longer to not have interprovincial travel beyond essential travel, then that's what we will do," King said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.
— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.
The Canadian Press