Health Minister Julie Green burst the possibility of a travel bubble with Yukon in the legislative assembly Tuesday.

But she didn’t blow off the idea completely. Green plans to speak with chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola Wednesday.

Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler raised the issue by pointing to the announcement on Thursday that travellers from Nunavut with no Covid-19 symptoms can apply to skip the mandatory 14-day self isolation period when entering the NWT.

That new policy restored some aspects of the travel bubble that Nunavut had with the NWT from June until November, when it was suspended due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Nunavut.

However, a bubble has yet to be established with the Yukon. The travel bubble that British Columbia had with the Yukon ended in November as Covid-19 spread across that province.

Dempster Highway a lifeline

The only highway that reaches the Beaufort Delta runs through the Yukon.

“The Dempster Highway is a vital lifeline for people in the Beaufort Delta for access to essential services by road because flying is too expensive for most families,” Semmler said.

Green responded that she’s aware of how important isolation-free travel is for people in the Beaufort Delta but said that discussions on relaxing border restrictions aren’t happening on her level.

“We can only control our own border,” Green said. “Yukon puts in the conditions it feels it needs. It’s not as easy as just throwing the border open and saying it’s all going to be good. I recognize the member’s passion on this. I’d love to be able to tell her it will open but there’s a process we have to follow.”

Vaccination success helpful

Semmler noted that communities in her region have experienced “high uptakes” in first and second doses of the vaccine, and asked if that fact would accelerate discussions over a possible NWT-Yukon bubble.

“It’s my understanding that having a fully vaccinated population on both sides of the border would be very helpful in this situation,” Green said.

“I’m aware that Yukon has a similar number of doses as we do with similar timing and goals for vaccinations. I think that will be useful in making free travel available between the two jurisdictions. This is a live issue. We hope to have all of our vaccine rolled out by the end of March. I’m hoping to be able to ask the CPHO and have good news for the end of March.”

In early January, Kandola told MLAs in a standing committee meeting that as vaccination levels increase, there could be more freedom to travel between Nunavut and Yukon because the three territories share the goal of vaccinating 75 per cent of the eligible population.

Travel restrictions with other provinces would remain in place if those jurisdictions’ vaccination levels remain low, she said.

As of Tuesday, Yukon has had 72 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and one death, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in its latest update. The NWT has had 47 cases and zero deaths, according to the GNWT’s Covid-19 portal.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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