Eight days into their cross-country journey, David Kaplan, his wife and two young children were just a few hours from their new home when they were told they could go no further.
The British Columbia family was in the process of moving to Windsor Forks, N.S., Monday morning when officers stationed at a checkpoint on the provincial boundary between Quebec and New Brunswick said they would have to turn around.
The reason? Nova Scotia just closed the doors to nearly all travellers in response to a third wave of COVID-19 cases that public-health officials are struggling to get under control. At land crossings in New Brunswick, provincial public-safety officers have begun turning around people who planned to travel through that province on their way to Nova Scotia.
The Kaplans, like plenty of others in the process of moving to the province, were suddenly stuck in limbo. Hundreds of out-of-province homeowners have been moving to Nova Scotia in recent months in one of the greatest Eastern migrations in recent history, fuelling a buying frenzy of people drawn by affordable real estate and, until now, lower coronavirus case counts.
The B.C. family, travelling in two trucks and hauling a camping trailer and a moving trailer loaded with a motorcycle, their clothes, a Boston terrier-French bulldog mix named Rob and most of their prized possessions, was escorted back into Quebec. They drove to a truck stop, trying to decide what to do next.
“It’s devastating. We have no place to go,” Mr. Kaplan, 44, said over the phone from the parking lot of a Tim Hortons near Dégelis, Que. “I haven’t showered in five days. We’re exhausted. When they told us we couldn’t go through, my wife broke down at the side of the road.”
Nova Scotia announced the new entrance restrictions on Friday, when it reported 227 new cases – the biggest single-day count since the pandemic began. There are now 1,655 active cases in the province, and 58 people in hospital. The province has extended school closings until the end of the month, told residents not to leave their communities, and tightened isolation requirements for rotational workers.
There has been heightened concern in the province around the link between rising cases and travellers coming from other parts of Canada. Nova Scotia is no longer allowing people to enter for funerals, and the government said people moving to the province would no longer be permitted as of 8 a.m. Monday.
On Monday afternoon, Nova Scotia clarified those rules after stories of travellers stuck at provincial boundary crossings began circulating. Some people will be allowed to apply for an exemption to enter on compassionate grounds if they can prove they bought or leased their new home before April 21, and have a closing date before May 20. Similar exemptions will be made for those carrying an employment letter dated by May 7 for a new job in Nova Scotia that cannot be done virtually or deferred.
“Limiting who enters the province, including people moving here, is important to protect our citizens and health care system as we battle the third wave of COVID-19,” Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin said. “However, we did not intend to create hardship for people and families who may find themselves in limbo without a place to live.”
Mr. Kaplan, a handyman and yoga instructor whose house purchase in Nova Scotia closed on May 6, said he hoped his family’s application would be accepted. They planned to stay at a Quebec campground until they get approval to proceed.
The family, travelling from Maple Ridge, B.C., was in Thunder Bay when they heard about the tightening entrance restrictions in Nova Scotia. Suddenly their move to Nova Scotia, where they were able to buy a rural property mortgage-free, became a race against time.
Mr. Kaplan said they drove as quickly as they could but, with a four- and six-year-old in tow, they had to stop twice to sleep, and arrived just past the 8 a.m. Monday deadline.
“They need to have some compassion,” he said. “We’ve followed all the rules, we’ve avoided contact, and were fully prepared to self-isolate when we get there.”
The family learned late Monday night that they were approved to enter the province, and planned to continue their trip on Tuesday after receiving further instructions.
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