Mayor of Nova Scotia border town supports screening measures as balanced move

Nova Scotia has imposed new restrictions at its provincial boundary with New Brunswick as part of a series of measures aimed at tightening social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Under the restrictions that took effect at 6 a.m. Monday, anyone coming to Nova Scotia through land, sea and air entry points will be stopped, questioned and told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Amherst, N.S., Mayor David Kogon, whose town is near the provincial boundary, said he supports the province’s move to enforce screening as a balanced approach that addresses both health and economic concerns.

“There are a lot of people who work in New Brunswick and live in Amherst, so they need to be able to cross over. And I’m one of those people,” said Kogon, who is also a doctor and works at a hospital in Moncton, N.B. “There are also people who work in Nova Scotia but live in New Brunswick so there are dispensations for these people.”

Exemptions are allowed for healthy workers in the trades and transport sectors, as well as those going to work in areas such as health care and for patients who need access to essential health services.

Kogon said the exemptions are important to towns like his and Sackville, N.B., where a number of Amherst’s town staff live. Cross-border movement will be allowed for those who work in town services that are considered essential, he said.

Otherwise the restriction applies to all non-essential travel. “So it’s not that they’ve actually closed the border, but they are screening at the border and allowing people to go through when it’s essential that they do,” Kogon said.

The mayor said while health concerns are paramount, the commercial implications of closing the border altogether can’t be ignored. Kogon said up to $55 million in commercial goods flows across the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick boundary every day by highway transport and rail.

“That’s huge for our commerce in Nova Scotia,” he said.

In Sackville, Mayor John Higham said that under normal conditions there are typically so many business and personal interactions between two provinces it’s as if “the border doesn’t exist.”

He said it remains to be seen how much inconvenience will be caused by Nova Scotia’s move, although he supports it.

“We do have people who run businesses from one side or the other… so those people are going to be in more difficulty if their stores are open,” said Higham.

He said he talked Sunday with a restaurant manager who lives in Amherst, and she told him she wouldn’t be able to continue her takeout service.

“So it’s going to affect individuals quite a bit I would suspect,” he said.

Members of the RCMP were at the border crossing on Monday to help with vehicle checks, which were conducted at the inbound weight scales off the Trans-Canada Highway, spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email.

“Our current role is to assist provincial personnel as they set up the area in relation to the province of Nova Scotia’s recent declaration of a state of emergency,” said Clarke.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil declared the provincial state of emergency on Sunday, saying it was necessary because people had been blatantly ignoring a previous order for social distancing and self-isolation.

In addition to the border measures, the province announced that people were prohibited from gathering in groups larger than five.

Individuals caught violating the limit would face a $1,000 fine, while businesses would face a $7,500 fine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020.

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