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Would an Atlantic-style bubble help Alberta slow the spread of COVID-19?

Last Updated May 5, 2021 at 11:56 am MDT

A sign on Highway #1 south of Duncan, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island warns against non-essential travel due to Covid-19 on April 26, 2021. Non-essential travel in BC is being restricted between three regional zones to try and curb the spread of Covid-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Don Denton

CALGARY (CityNews) — With Alberta struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, calls are being renewed for the province to consider stricter restrictions surrounding travel.

British Columbia has already set up border restrictions to try preventing COVID-19 from crossing into the province. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has done the same.

As many Albertans have friends, family and even property in neighbouring provinces, travel across provincial borders has been fairly common.

That should stop if the province wishes to contain its caseload, according to some experts.

“We need strict intra-provincial and international control with mandatory supported quarantines,” said developmental biologist Malgorzata Gasperowicz.

The idea of a bubble is not new to Canada, where people travelling to the Maritimes have been subjected to a two-week quarantine upon arrival. But what about other provinces?

“People keep asking me this, if in those big and complex provinces, this could actually work,” said infectious disease researcher Lisa Barrett. “And I say, ‘why of course it could.’ Yes is the answer, but it does take a commitment to it.”

READ MORE: The COVID-Zero approach: Why Atlantic Canada excels at slowing the spread of COVID-19

But experts believe one of the keys to a successful bubble is establishing it while community cases are low. The quarantine period is important as well — up to 14 days, supported with testing.

That’s why they say Alberta wouldn’t be a great candidate at this point.

“Because it really doesn’t matter if you’ve got your own cases floating around with community spread,” said Barrett. “There’s really no big point in doing this for external cases only.”

The calls to turn Alberta into a bubble were renewed after the province registered record-setting numbers for COVID-19 cases last weekend. They also coincide with a two-day rodeo that took place over the weekend near the town of Bowden, Alta.

Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health, Dr. James Talbot, says those are just two reasons other provinces should be skeptical about letting Albertans in.

“If you’re a premier of B.C. or Saskatchewan, where you’ve successfully started to bring cases down, and people ask you about the border, you really have to ask yourself … ‘is there a possibility that people from Alberta can undo all the hard work we’ve done by coming into the province?'” said Talbot.

“It’s pretty clear that it’s not safe to let them into your province, because they won’t obey the rules.”