For immediate release
July 3, 2020
NDP raises questions and concerns on plans to maintain public health following Atlantic Bubble
The NDP Caucus is seeking clear answers from the provincial government as Newfoundland and Labrador opens its borders to the Maritime provinces today.
MHA Jim Dinn has written a letter to Premier Ball with a list of questions on government’s readiness to mitigate any negative effects of the Atlantic Bubble and protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“Since the announcement of the Atlantic Bubble, we have heard concerns from our constituents and from people across the province that the province is moving too fast, and that we need to proceed more cautiously,” said Dinn.
Dinn says his Caucus asks the Premier to, “Please clarify the exact processes that you will put in place to track or monitor travel by Maritime visitors to the province. If we are in an Atlantic Bubble, why aren’t all provinces coordinating their efforts such as conducting similar health screening?”
Dinn says his Caucus acknowledges the good work that has been done in flattening the COVID-19 curve and getting the province to Alert Level 2. The NDP Caucus also understands the need to open the province, but the pace at which we seem to be proceeding raises concerns about our ability to respond to a second wave.
“It has been stated on more than one occasion that travel from outside the province poses the greatest threat of COVID-19 to people living here. We want to know clearly what measures government is putting in place to guard against an outbreak,” said Dinn.
Questions in the letter cover everything from mandatory mask wearing, to triggers for the reintroduction of restrictions, to projections of COVID-19 cases as a result of the Bubble.
“The people of our province need to be reassured that government has thought through the opening of the province and has taken steps to mitigate the risk of doing so,” said Dinn.
MHA Jim Dinn’s letter to Premier Ball on behalf of the NDP Caucus is available below.
For further information, contact Zaren Healey White, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (o), 693-9172 (c), or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Dwight Ball, Premier
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
8th Floor, East Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
July 3, 2020
Dear Premier Ball:
Living with COVID-19 and the related restrictions for the past three and a half months has been challenging for everyone in the province. For the most part, government, the Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Health and Community Services, and the people of NL have worked successfully to flatten the curve and get the province back to some semblance of normalcy.
As the province prepares to expand to an “Atlantic Bubble,” with the possibility of opening up to the rest of Canada later in July, many people have expressed serious concerns about doing so. These concerns stem in part from the fact that the government has done an excellent job in communicating to the public the seriousness of COVID-19 and the need to take precautions and proceed cautiously in moving through the alert levels. Communication around the Atlantic Bubble has not been as clear.
New or active cases have not been reported in Newfoundland and Labrador for five weeks, and officials have said on more than one occasion that our greatest threat lies in COVID-19 being brought into the province through travel. As a result, my Caucus and I have several questions that need answers or clarification.
1. Please clarify the exact processes that you will put in place to track or monitor travel by Maritime visitors to the province. If we are in an Atlantic Bubble, why aren’t all provinces coordinating their efforts such as conducting similar health screening?
2. You have been quoted as saying that opening up the province to visitors from the rest of Canada depends on “favourable results” – presumably in reference to the Atlantic Bubble. Please define “favourable results.” Is it zero cases? Ten? What counts as favourable?
3. Will government make the wearing of non-medical masks or face-coverings mandatory for indoor public spaces?
4. Are there plans to increase testing of individuals for COVID-19, not just for those presenting with symptoms or coming from hot spots?
5. Are there plans to implement testing of sewage for the presence of COVID-19? There is research to suggest that testing sewage for the virus can provide up to a week’s advance warning of its presence.
6. The Telegram article of June 25 reported that premiers are prepared for a second wave of COVID-19. What preparations have you and other premiers put in place, or plan to put in place, in preparation for a second wave?
7. You have been quoted as saying, we “.....will never hesitate to go back if we have to,” and that such decisions will be based on information from our province and the impact on residents. What specific information will trigger the reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions? Will any reintroduced restrictions be different for a large urban centre versus a rural area of the province?
8. To ask the previous question in a more concrete way, what actions would be taken or what measures would be put in place if, for example, we began to see five new COVID-19 cases a day? What about ten a day? More?
9. Dr. Fitzgerald stated, “We know we’re going to see cases of COVID-19.” What are the projections of cases and deaths that could result from opening the Atlantic Bubble, and from opening up to the rest of Canada?
10. Dr. Fitzgerald stated that public health officials will be concerned if they see a large number of cases for which they can’t find a source, and that such a scenario would mean implementing measures. Please define what is meant by “large” and “measures.”
11. Will there be a plan to give those over 60 years old special access to services and amenities so they can more safely obtain food, medications, masks, and other items?
These are just some of the concerns we have heard from many of our constituents and others around the province.
We understand the importance of opening up the economy, but people need to be reassured that while there is a plan for the economy there is also a plan to protect their health and safety and the health and safety of those they love.
We look forward to your answers to these questions.
MHA, St. John’s Centre
cc. Hon. Dr. John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Chief Medical Officer of Health