HALIFAX — People thinking about warm weather getaways in the coming months should probably plan to stay home, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health said Wednesday.
Dr. Robert Strang responded to reports a Halifax-based travel agency is offering two weeklong trips to Cuba reserved exclusively for residents of Atlantic Canada. He questioned the "wisdom" of non-essential foreign trips while the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world.
"The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to advise against non-essential international travel," Strang told reporters. "Choosing to support our local hotels, restaurants and other businesses is the safest and wisest choice for Nova Scotians to make."
Absolute Travel Specialists says it will charter two Air Canada flights -- one in February and another in March -- for Atlantic Canadians who want to get some sun in the winter and stay safe from COVID-19. The company said Tuesday a hotel in Cayo Coco will be reserved exclusively for Atlantic Canadians during their stay.
Federal law stipulates that Canadians who leave the country must quarantine for 14 days upon their return. Atlantic residents who leave the Atlantic region -- even if they stay in Canada -- must also isolate for two weeks when they return home.
Strang cautioned the second wave of COVID-19 is expected to last for at least the next two to three months.
"There are no guarantees where we might be with COVID here in Nova Scotia during these coming months and we really don't know with any certainly what 2021 is going to bring either locally, nationally or internationally," he said.
On Tuesday, Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said the planned trips to Cuba were "not realistic." Morrison said her province would maintain its two-week self-isolation requirement for the "foreseeable future," adding that it was unlikely any changes would be made before the Christmas season.
Strang, however, said his province is considering employing rapid testing at its border with New Brunswick for travellers from outside the Atlantic region. He said rapid tests can shorten the two-week isolation period.
Starting next month, officials in Alberta will be rapid testing foreign travellers at the Calgary airport and the Coutts land border crossing. Travellers who test negative will be allowed to end their isolation after taking a second test a week later. Strang said he is looking to learn from the Alberta pilot.
"As evidence evolves, the epidemiology evolves, our goal is always to find the appropriate balance of keeping things open but also having the necessary level of safety," he said.
Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, leaving the province with five active cases of the disease.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press