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No Answer Yet for LNS Residents and Restricted Access to Newfoundland Island

LOCAL NEWS - JULY 29, 2020 – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Weekly Press Brief Update

CFBS attended this afternoon by telephone, in the weekly press brief of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to discuss COVID-19 within the province. The press brief was led by the Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services, and Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Residents of the Lower North Shore have been awaiting an answer since last Wednesday (July 22) from Dr. Fitzgerald regarding the proposal request letter sent by Warden Randy Jones of the MRC du Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent, to have the Lower North Shore included in the Newfoundland bubble, granting less restrictive access to the island.

CFBS asked Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Newfoundland and Labrador, for an update on the status of the request from Warden Jones sent last Wednesday (July 22), as well a possible time frame for the decision to be given. In response, she said "I don't have a record of receiving the letter, we had looked into this when we were first asked the question, I will take that back and we will look into it again, but I don't have an update for you right now."

CFBS also inquired about the travel information on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador website that states that people travelling for work within the communities along the Labrador-Quebec border (Labrador City, Wabush, Fermont, the Labrador Straits area and Blanc Sablon) that they no longer need to isolate upon return to the province. If people travelling from within the Atlantic bubble for work that come to Blanc-Sablon is without necessity to isolate, this seems to indicate that the area of Blanc-Sablon is not a COVID threat to the people travelling within this bubble. The response from Dr. Janice Fitzgerald was, "So we know that the incidence of COVID-19 in that area is low, but the Atlantic bubble is separate from what's happening with the Quebec-Labrador border." Premier Ball also added, "So even though the prevalence might be low, and it is, this is very difficult. Because what we know is that in this particular area the province relationship has been excellent, and for many many years has been excellent. But we also know, that if you live in, for instance that area, and you move into one of the communities inside Quebec where the instance and prevalence of COVID could be much higher, when you come back to your own community you do not have to self isolate. So people can actually move freely around Quebec, in this particular case, and move back into their own community and not self-isolate. So there is a bit of distinction here of what happens in other provinces. This is the reason why there has been a letter sent in to public health officials, with an example of what could happen in that area."

​Premier Ball also assured that public health officials will take a look at the request, they need to take a look at all jurisdictions, and wanted to reassure the people of the region that they understand the close ties with the province but that we are living in a pandemic.

​It was mentioned during the press brief by Premier Dwight Ball, that to this date, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador have approved over 12,000 travel exemptions requests to come to the province.

Following the press briefing today, Warden Randy Jones of the MRC du Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent, contacted CFBS to confirm that the request letter was sent to Dr. Fitzgerald on July 22nd at 8:10pm, which in turn a notification was received by Mr. Jones that the email was opened on July 23rd at 1:16pm.

So for the time being, the people of the Lower North Shore will need to continue to apply on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador website for a travel exemption, and await the decision of Dr. Fitzgerald.

Abbygail Wellman

​CFBS Journalist

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