Don’t burst the bubble: Maritimers hope Atlantic bubble holds for holidays

HALIFAX — It’s been over four months since the Atlantic provinces bought into the ‘Atlantic bubble’ and so far, Maritimers have reaped the rewards.

But with COVID-19 cases and local concern on the rise — and Christmas around the corner — there are questions about the future of the Atlantic bubble.

When it comes to the bubble, one Halifax store owner has a holiday wish.

“I really hope the bubble holds,” says Sarah Milberry, co-owner of Sarah and Tom gift shop. “We’re the best place to be right now in Canada, so I hope that it stays that way.”

Milberry says her husband travels outside of the Atlantic bubble to manage their other store locations, which leads to a cycle of self-isolation. That’s one of the reasons they’re not going anywhere this Christmas.

“We want to have our own celebration,” says Milberry. “With Tom travelling, we don’t want him to have to be in isolation and have separate Christmases.”

The Atlantic bubble has been praised across Canada and around the world for keeping case numbers low.

Other countries are now discussing creating their own travel bubbles.

But the past few weeks have shown that it might not take much to burst the bubble.

Case numbers have increased in recent weeks, which led to further restrictions announced for parts of New Brunswick on Thursday.

Nova Scotia public health officials say there is now community spread in the Halifax area, and the premier has warned what could happen in the bubble bursts.

“If community spread continues down the path, I won’t think twice about shutting down the economy again. People need to understand this,” said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil during a news update on Tuesday.

“I’m praying that our Atlantic bubble holds, as are many, many of my colleagues,” says Karla Nicholson, executive director of Halifax’s Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association.

Shopping districts like Quinpool Road have been rolling out their holiday campaigns. 

The Quinpool district is already in the festive spirit with holiday light displays, and an emphasis on sharing locally available gift ideas this holiday season.

“We think it’s really going to remind people that our businesses are here, we’re local, and let’s just support our local economy,” says Nicholson.

“It’s not just that case number, it’s the rate of change that worries me,” adds Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist. “If we don’t tighten our bubbles up, we’re not going to have much of a Christmas, because we’re going to see those cases keep continuing to go up like Manitoba did.”

Barrett says anyone who can should download the federal government’s COVID-19 Exposure Alert App.

“Because this virus is sneaky,” says Barrett. “Most of the time we don’t even know if there’s community spread.”

With just over five weeks to go until Christmas day, Barrett says what we do now counts as Maritimers try to keep COVID-19 numbers down. 

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