Premier Stephen McNeil (l) and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID-19 update, July 6, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

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After a traveller from the United States failed to self-isolate in Nova Scotia and started a COVID-19 cluster on PEI, the province of Nova Scotia is tightening rules around people travelling into the province from outside the “Atlantic bubble.”

Starting today, any such traveller “must provide the address where they will be self-isolating and a phone number where they can be reached 24/7,” said Premier Stephen McNeil at a press conference today. “If they are in self-isolation, they should be able to take a call… and there will be followup calls every day for 14 days. And if we can’t locate them after three tries, police will be called to do an in-person check to make sure that person is self-isolating where they said they would be.”

McNeil explained that the person flew into Toronto from the US, and was cleared by the Canada Border Services to board a flight to Halifax. The man arrived in Halifax on June 26. He held a student visa to attend school in Charlottetown. He was picked up by friends from PEI, who attempted to drive him onto the island but he was turned back because he did not have the paperwork required by that province, so he returned to Halifax.

It appears the Charlottetown friends then returned to the island, where they started a cluster of infection. One of the newly infected works in a nursing home. Contact tracing on PEI revealed the presence of the international traveller in Halifax, where he was not self-isolating. Nova Scotia Public Health caught up with him on Saturday and he was tested for the disease; the positive test result came back Sunday. He is now under a federal quarantine order at an airport hotel.

McNeil would not agree that the case reflects a failure to make sure such travellers self-isolated.

“There are signs posted all over Halifax airport and our own provincial officials are there to provide information about the current state of emergency in the province and the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming from outside of the Atlantic bubble,” said McNeil. “Those arriving are also given a brochure to explain all of the other public health protocols.”

“I am as frustrated as all of you,” continued McNeil. “We have worked together and sacrificed so much in this province to help flatten the curve, only to have some people come in who think they are above it all, who think that the rules don’t apply to them. Guess what, they do.”

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, stressed that all four recent cases of COVID in Nova Scotia were international travellers, and three of them responsibly self-isolated, preventing further spread of the disease beyond themselves. Strang said Public Health is now doing contact tracing to determine who the man who failed to self-isolate may have come in close contact with.

I asked if it is a problem that Americans entering into Canada through the Toronto airport can immediately get on a plane to Halifax. Doesn’t that risk infecting the other people on the plane? Strang answered that it is not practical to have the “thousands” of travellers coming from the US to self-isolate near the four airports that now accept flights from the US. Moreover, he claimed the epidemiology shows little increased risk to other people on an airplane when flying with someone who has COVID-19.

Strang additionally said there is no reason for people flying within the Atlantic bubble to self-isolate after they had been on a plane with people who were from outside the Atlantic bubble.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I was in the Gateway Lounge annex of Stanfield airport on Sunday night where private planes often land. A pilot, whose office is in that facility, was concerned enough to warn our local group that a private charter from Chicago had recently arrived and they were letting us know in case we wanted to avoid coming side to use the lounge or the bathrooms. Even though the facilty and washrooms had been cleaned after the US passengers arrival.

    Appaently these US visitors had a travel exemption becasue of essential work in the film industry. Did they pass through cusomts inToronto and were screened at Pearson? Or did they fly direct into HFX? There are no signs or brochures about self-isolating for 14 days in the Gateway Lounge? Who is calling and checking with these people?

    I think there are a lot of questions to be asked about this private point of entry into NS at the moment.

  2. What do McNeil and Strang know that we don’t? Is there some agreement to let Americans in? Is the border “closure” symbolic?
    Does anyone else think the epidemiology of the virus not infecting people on planes, will end up being like the old recommendation that people wear masks indoors in public? It seems to me that Strang has consistently been 2 weeks behind in developments around good practices to prevent the spread.

  3. Question: This was obviously before July 3; how did this person’s “friends from PEI” get into New Brunswick and then into Nova Scotia?

  4. I’m a bit annoyed with our local beach cottage rental neighbour. They’ve rented to people who’ve come directly from the us. Tiny beachside cottages -impossible to isolate. They’re walking their dogs on the beach. Can’t isolate with a dog. I get that you can’t keep out Canadian’s who live in the us but the rental businesses could have guessed this would happen. We painstakingly avoided the beach for 3 months to enjoy it now and it’s a bit frustrating…

  5. With so many people having smartphones, how does just answering a phone call prove that one is self-isolating?

    1. Good question. I assume the phone’s location services would have to be enabled, although even that doesn’t guarantee much.

      1. Personally, I have location disabled on my phone and, as you said, even if it were on it doesn’t guarantee much. Many people I know have theirs set to an overall area, like HRM, rather than a specific exact location. I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think a series of phone calls is going to keep some people in isolation.

  6. re ‘McNeil would not agree that the case reflects a failure to make sure such travellers self-isolated.
    “There are signs posted all over Halifax airport and our own provincial officials are there to provide information about the current state of emergency in the province and the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming from outside of the Atlantic bubble,” said McNeil. “Those arriving are also given a brochure to explain all of the other public health protocols.” ‘

    I see our premier has brought out the big guns to enforce quarantine protocols. Not just signs, terrifying enough in their deterrent menace to the potentially non-compliant, but – gasp – brochures!! Not the brochures!! And surely not the brochures that…..explain the health protocols?!? Oh My God!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2ncJ6ciGyM

    How stupid do these people think we are?

  7. Strang and McNeil have been given the benefit of the doubt (and there is a mountain of doubt) for too long. This Atlantic Bubble nonsense is the Tip of The Incompetence Iceberg. And these people ask the gullible public to believe in their science and expertise!

    If you live in Waybeyond, NS, wear a mask, social distanee, be very afraid, etc. But if you just flew in from Malaysia to Toronto and then to Halifax, well, have a nice day!

    And, hey, maybe some alarm bells over this statement:
    “The man arrived in Halifax on June 26. He held a student visa to attend school in Charlottetown. He was picked up by friends from PEI, who attempted to drive him onto the island but he was turned back because he did not have the paperwork required by that province, so he returned to Halifax.”
    So, intrepid reporters is this student eligible for Santa Trudeau’s international student subsidy? Why would this student now be returning to PEI?

    And for starters at airports, charge the passengers or the airlines to do the necessary checks and monitoring, NS taxpayers should not have to subsidize problematic air travel. After all, governments are always touting “user pay”, at least for the Little People.

  8. Why are there “thousands” of travelers coming from the US? I thought the border was closed to non-essential travel….