Prince Edward Island will open to seasonal property owners who are not Island residents, but come from within Canada, starting June 1, Premier Dennis King announced Wednesday. The island has been closed to all non-essential travellers since April 17.
Before entering the province, seasonal visitors will have to submit relevant travel and property ownership documentation online, as well as disclose how they plan to be supported while in quarantine. Upon entry, travellers will have to self-isolate for 14 days and answer calls from PEI’s Operation Isolation team to prove they are not leaving their homes. The same rules continue to apply to Island residents returning home from out of province.
Mr. King said PEI public health authorities reasoned that seasonal residents could be let in safely as long as self-isolation is mandatory, and that they should be welcome in the community once they have completed their quarantine.
“Part of the process of learning to live with this is the understanding that there is daily risk of seeing more COVID come here,” he said. “We have the ability to manage this from a public health perspective, but we also have the ability to pull back if need be.”
All of PEI’s 27 COVID-19 cases are considered recovered, and no new cases have been reported since April 28.
Approximately 3,500 seasonal residents come to PEI each year, and contribute $50-million to $60-million to the local economy, Mr. King said.
Angela McDonnell, a teacher from Yellowknife, is thrilled to have the green light to visit her parents on their shared island property. Once her isolation period is complete, she plans to do her share for PEI’s economy.
“I will buy ADL milk and cheese, island ice cream, island chocolates ... anything PEI. I do that every summer anyway," she said.
Frank Falzett is relieved he may get a chance to escape his home in Scranton, Pa., and migrate to his summer abode with his family. While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travellers until at least June 21, Mr. Falzett said he plans on coming to PEI as soon as he can. Self-isolation is not a problem, he says, since he understands that coming from the United States carries a risk.
“I’d be more than happy to come to PEI and self-isolate for two weeks,” he said. “Pennsylvania has a ton of cases. My wife, my daughter and I are pretty much cloistered into our home.”
The 14-day isolation period is a taller hurdle to clear for P.J. Conlon, a landscaping business operator from Goderich, Ont. who gets limited time off work in the summers. He’s decided to stay home rather than spend two weeks inside his family cottage in Canoe Cove, PEI, instead of on the beach or in town as usual.
“It’s unfortunate because that’s the only time I get to see my mom’s side of the family,” he said, “but I completely understand they have to take precautions.”
Alan MacPhee, owner of MacPhee’s Market in Souris, PEI, said he hopes that when seasonal travellers arrive they respect physical distancing and other guidelines. His store is on the route taken by essential workers travelling to Îles-de-la-Madeleine in Quebec; when some have tried to enter his shop illegally, their presence has made some islanders uneasy. He has hired security and members of his staff have gone on stress leave.
“The psychology we have dealt with on a daily basis is fear and anger," he said. “People are still afraid of getting sick.” But as long as new arrivals self-isolate, he added, they should be welcome for being key members of the community and economy.
A week ago, the Premier encouraged islanders to be more welcoming, after reports surfaced of residents being asked to leave stores because they looked like temporary foreign workers.
Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said that, despite the loosening of travel restrictions, PEI’s three entry points must still be closely patrolled because the province might increasingly look like a safe haven for illegal travellers.
“I think people may want to come to PEI now for different reasons,” she said, "but border measures are in place for a reason.”
The RCMP started patrolling PEI coastlines on May 15 to intercept boaters not complying with travel restrictions. That began just three days after PEI Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson said investigations were under way into stowaway passengers trying to enter the Island in cargo trucks.
Dr. Morrison said she is not too worried about illegal entrants because officials at PEI’s entry points are expected to be thorough in how they screen new entrants, and islanders themselves watch the coastline from their homes.
She expects islanders will also monitor any new legal arrivals.
“We certainly have learned that islanders will help in making sure seasonal residents will have the support they need to self-isolate and certainly let us know if they aren’t.”
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