New border rules reinstate exemptions, but require weekly testing for cross-border commuters

Megan Mitton stands smiling with her arms crossed.
Megan Mitton is the MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar. Photo by Megan Mitton.
Erica Butler - CHMA - SackvilleNB | 26-01-2021
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People who cross the border into Nova Scotia for work, medical, or family reasons have had their fair share of changes and confusion surrounding the rules on border crossing, and on Saturday at midnight, the rules changed yet again.

An updated public health order was signed on Saturday, January 23rd. Fortunately, the changes include the reinstatement of exemptions for people crossing the border for medical appointments. Unfortunately, the changes in the order– especially as they apply to the Nova Scotia border–are not consistently explained elsewhere on New Brunswick’s website or news releases.

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton has been lobbying for some of the changes that came into effect on Saturday, and has spent the weekend answering questions from people trying to understand the changes. Erica Butler called her up to get to the bottom of what’s allowed and not when it comes to crossing the Nova Scotia border.

[Please note, this interview took place shortly before an announcement by Horizon health that a new Sackville testing site will be open at the Tantramar Civic Centre as of Tuesday, January 26.]

According to the order the was revised on Saturday January 23, all travellers into New Brunswick are required to self-isolate for 14 days except for those who qualify for the listed exemptions, mostly found in Section 7 of the order.

Here’s what the order says about some common types of border crossers in the Tantramar area:

Work and school commuters:
New Brunswick residents who commute regularly across the border (and Nova Scotia residents who community regularly into New Brunswick) are exempt from self-isolation if they are tested every week for COVID-19. As always, the exempt travel is limited to work purposes, and they are not allowed to run errands or make other stops on the way to and from work.

People seeking medical care or emergency veterinary care:
New Brunswick residents who need to cross the border for medical care or emergency veterinary care are exempt from self-isolation, and at the Nova Scotia and PEI borders, they are also exempt from work isolation and weekly testing. (At Maine and Quebec borders, those conditions apply.)
This exemption also applies to Nova Scotians coming into New Brunswick for similar reasons.

People with children in care or shared custody:
Families who have children in care or shared custody across the border are exempt from self-isolation. They are also exempt from weekly testing, as long as they haven’t travelled outside the Atlantic provinces in the past 14 days. (At Maine and Quebec borders, weekly testing would apply.)

Truckers and other commercial transportation operators:
Truckers are exempt from self-isolation requirements for travel in the course of their work, and if they are New Brunswick residents, are required to have “periodic” testing.


Mitton says this is the first time that the actual mandatory order has specified different protocols for border with Nova Scotia and PEI, and she wants to see it carried forward.

“That needs to be part of the policy making,” she says. “That they actually look at what is needed in the different areas and make decisions that take that into account.”

Though Mitton is pleased with the latest round of changes, there is room for improvement, she says. “What I am very worried about is that with these rule changes, and especially requiring workers to get testing, the rollout of the information has been really inadequate, and unclear and inconsistent.”

A government news release on January 23 failed to differentiate between Nova Scotia and other borders when it comes to weekly testing requirements. And explainers still exist on the government’s website that appear inconsistent with the mandatory order, with references to “work isolation” for cross-border commuters.

“There’s a lot of grey area with people’s lives,” says Mitton. “You can write rules, but if you don’t understand how it’s applied in practice, then it kind of all falls apart. And I think that’s what keeps happening.”

The new testing site in Sackville, at the Tantramar Veterans’ Memorial Civic Centre, will hopefully make things easier for those with new weekly testing requirements, says Mitton.

If you have any questions about crossing the border, please get in touch with CHMA at