How Newfoundland Beat COVID-19

With no vaccine or other solid treatment plan yet discovered, the world is still at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Newfoundland is one of the best places in the country, and world, to be in if you desire to escape the virus. Though our approach has sometimes been criticized by residents and potential visitors alike, there’s no denying that what we have done has worked. So, what has brought Newfoundland so much success with handling the coronavirus pandemic?

COVID-19 continues to be an ever-evolving pandemic. This article was written on October 6, 2020.

An Early Cluster

Newfoundland was one of the last provinces in Canada to report a case of COVID-19. That shouldn’t be surprising on account of our small population size and lack of international flights.

This streak of luck did not last for long. In the early days of the virus, a cluster stemmed from funeral services held on March 15-17. To give you a better idea of how early this was, consider that NL did not require two-week isolation after traveling until March 20. Also, Canada did not require isolation until March 25. The first case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador was not even discovered until March 14.

This funeral home cluster rocketed Newfoundland’s numbers up. We quickly had the second-highest infection rate per capita in Canada, behind only Quebec. This one event allowed Newfoundlanders to see just how easily the virus can spread, and even led to the first death from COVID-19 in Atlantic Canada. Seeing this fast spread made us realize that we needed to follow all health guidelines that came with the public health emergency.


Isolation Required for Domestic Travelers

As we mentioned, Newfoundland and Labrador began requiring a two-week isolation for domestic travelers beginning on March 20. On the other hand, provinces like Ontario and Quebec have never required isolation for domestic travelers. That may be out of necessary due to them being hubs of the country, but it certainly does not help with reducing spread.

On July 3, Newfoundland and Labrador formed the Atlantic Bubble with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Those provinces have done a comparable job in keeping COVID-19 numbers low. Though met with some criticism, the Atlantic Bubble has been a huge success and there has been no community spread within it since May.

There has been concern of the rules not being followed, and some exemptions do apply. Still, it seems this mandatory isolation has been a huge driver of success for limiting the virus in Newfoundland.


We’re an Island, Mostly

We’re not revealing any groundbreaking information with this one. This is largely intertwined with our isolation rules, but being an island helps too. Consider that other islands with many more people, such as New Zealand and Taiwan, have kept the virus spread limited as well. In the rest of Canada, an infected person could presumably drive across provincial borders and knowingly break isolation orders that are in place.

The only way to enter Newfoundland via car is on the Marine Atlantic Ferry from Sydney, Nova Scotia. Marine Atlantic has been enforcing all provincial regulations regarding who can and cannot visit. Furthermore, one of the two routes to Newfoundland has been shut down all summer due to a drop in demand. Though an obvious blow to the Argentia area, limiting entry points into the province can’t be a bad thing for limiting COVID-19 cases.

Labrador is not an island, but is quite isolated in its own right. It has no international airports and is far from heavily populated areas of Quebec. Labrador itself acts as somewhat of an island, barely accessible by the rest of Canada. It does have ferries to Newfoundland that some residents of Quebec can access, but again, these areas are very isolated.


We Have the Lowest Population Density in Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest population density out of all Canadian provinces. The territories have us beat on this front, though. St. John’s is dense compared to some other cities in Canada, but the point still stands. Having such a large province with lots of space certainly makes physical distancing and preventing community spread so much easier!


A Slow Opening

Alert levels brought Newfoundland COVID-19 success

Alert Level 2 is when Newfoundland and Labrador allowed the reopening of most indoor facilities. These included mainstays such as gyms and bars. We moved into Alert Level 2 on June 25, a time when the province had gone 28 days in a row with no new COVID-19 cases.

Waiting until June 25 was a challenge. Some people advocated for us to move into Alert Level 2 earlier than when we did. Looking at how the months have gone since then, it’s hard to argue the delayed opening now. We have seen no large spikes since then, but who knows what would have happened if the opening came earlier than it did.


Looking Ahead

As of October 6, we remain in Alert Level 2, and life has gone back to normal for many of us. We’re definitely not advocating for any Newfoundlanders or Labradorians to begin ignoring restrictions that are in place.

Newfoundland’s containment of COVID-19 is something that us residents should be proud of. We should consider ourselves lucky, but this success was no accident. As much of Canada is now dealing with a second wave, Newfoundland continues to keep case numbers low. Don’t let your guard down in Newfoundland, but do give yourself a pat on the back.