Top doctor bursts Atlantic-Cuba bubble, urges Nova Scotians to stay close to home this winter

Hanging out on a warm beach in Cuba in the middle of winter might be the dream for many, but Nova Scotia's top doctor is putting a damper on a planned trip to Cuba from the Atlantic bubble.

Dr. Robert Strang made the comments during a news conference on Wednesday, referring to recent reports about a Halifax-based travel agent who would like to extend the Atlantic bubble to Cuba in February and March.

Elayne Pink of Absolute Travel told CTV News an Air Canada charter flight would fly Atlantic Canadians from Halifax to Cuba, where a resort would host people only from the Atlantic bubble.

Pink said she has been overwhelmed with responses from Atlantic Canadians and seats are already filling up.

However, Strang said Wednesday that the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to advise against non-essential international travel, and international tourists are required to complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Canada.

"While we remain in the middle of a global pandemic, I think planning to stay close to home, enjoying the unique experiences that all four seasons bring in Nova Scotia, and choosing to support our local hotels, restaurants and other businesses is the safest and wisest choice for Nova Scotians to make," said Strang.

He noted that many countries around the world -- including Canada -- are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 and he doesn’t expect it to end anytime soon.

"It’s not going to be here for just a couple of weeks," said Strang. "We can expect it to be for at least the next two to three months and 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 certainty what 2021 is going to bring, either locally, nationally and internationally."

Other health officials from Atlantic Canada have been commenting on the trip, too.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said any way to boost the morale of people is "interesting and positive."

Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie raised the red flag over who has jurisdiction.

"The problem with any international expansion is that the border is a federal issue," Haggie said.

Halifax Stanfield International Airport is able to have flights depart for and land from North American countries.

A statement from the largest airport in Atlantic Canada says: "Halifax Stanfield is still permitted to accept flights from those locations, including Cuba. It just so happens there haven’t been any scheduled or operating throughout the majority of the pandemic, aside from repatriation flights bringing Canadians home."

Strang says, if anybody does leave the country for a beach view from Cuba, they will have to go through a 14-day quarantine when they return home.

In response to Strang's comments, Pink told CTV News the planned trip for February and March has excellent safety protocols built into the plan. She also said that the February trip may soon be completely booked.

However, she also noted that the trip won't likely be very profitable for her company, and that her goals are to give a boost to the travel industry and also encourage rapid testing at the Halifax airport.

As of Wednesday, John Hopkins University was reporting a total of 6,727 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 492 active cases in Cuba.