A protest over COVID-related travel restrictions has effectively cut off the flow of commercial trucks going in or out of the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

Hundreds of trucks have been stranded on both sides of the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border since Tuesday. Protesters have been blocking the Trans-Canada Highway on the Nova Scotia side of the border, cutting off the province’s only link to the rest of Canada and the U.S. 

“Panic has started to set in because there is seafood and perishables that have to move,” Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, told FreightWaves,. “Reefers are going to run out of fuel.”

Apart from the regional moves, it also makes Nova Scotia inaccessible for runs to or from the rest of Canada and the United States.

The blockade also could affect some local trucking operations serving the Port of Halifax, though it is business as usual for much of the intermodal trucking operations since the majority of the loading happens after containers move via rail to a CN facility in New Brunswick, said port authority spokesperson Lane Farguson. 

“We hope that the situation is resolved soon,” Farguson said. 

The protest came after Nova Scotia’s government announced it would reopen its borders to its neighboring provinces for nonessential travel, but left more restrictions for neighboring New Brunswick. The restrictions require travelers to take a COVID-19 test and self-isolate for up to 14 days depending on their vaccination status. 

Nova Scotia officials said the restrictions for New Brunswick are in response to that province lifting travel restrictions with the rest of Canada. 

Restrictions rankled some residents in border region

The move struck a nerve with some residents in the border region, who have called the measures draconian and have cut them off from family members and even health care.

In response, provincial lawmaker Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said in a post to Facebook that residents would be “shutting down the Trans-Canada Highway until the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border is open for our families.” She called on Nova Scotia’s premier, Iain Rankin, to reverse the policy.

The protesters heeded her call and blocked a portion of the highway. They subsequently moved to the border itself. 

Smith-McCrossin has since told protesters to abandon the blockade, saying she would take her case to Rankin. (The premier has reportedly refused to meet her, but called the situation “unacceptable.”)

The blockade has remained, with police so far not showing any signs that they will remove it.

Picard said political leaders Smith-McCrossin and Rankin share blame for the blockade.

“The fire started with the political side,” he said.

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