Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SHARING THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS – Premier Sandy Silver, Mary Tiesen, the Yukon government’s American sign language interpreter, and Dr. Brendan Hanley are seen at Wednesday’s COVID-19 media briefing.

Open border plan expanded to other territories

The Yukon border will open to residents of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and B.C. on July 1 when phase two of the COVID-19 reopening plan is launched.

By Gabrielle Plonka on June 25, 2020

The Yukon border will open to residents of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and B.C. on July 1 when phase two of the COVID-19 reopening plan is launched.

“We know for many reasons that we can’t keep Yukon cocooned from the rest of the country until a vaccine is found,” Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer, said Wednesday afternoon.

Hanley announced the plan to extend the border opening to include the N.W.T. and Nunavut alongside Premier Sandy Silver at a media briefing.

Residents of the territories and B.C. will be permitted to move freely in the Yukon after July 1, as long as they can provide documentation proving their residency at the border. They will also be required to provide a declaration to enforcement officials.

Visitors must travel directly from one of the three jurisdictions. Residents of Nunavut will not be allowed to enter the territory if they have had flight layovers outside the territories or B.C.

Hanley conceded that opening the border to Nunavut is “largely a symbolic gesture.”

Flights from Iqaluit to Whitehorse generally include a layover in Ottawa or another city outside of the three jurisdictions that are permitted.

Including the territories was driven by desire from residents of N.W.T. communities hoping to travel to the Yukon via the Dempster Highway for shopping or to visit family and friends, Hanley explained.

The border opening is not reciprocal, so Yukoners will still have to isolate when travelling to the N.W.T. and Nunavut.

Silver said the border may open to other jurisdictions as early as July 15. Visitors will likely have to complete two weeks of self-isolation upon arriving in the Yukon.

Hanley said the territory is moving away from enforcement in favour of more balanced and sustainable COVID-19 safety measures. 

Opening the borders means there is some risk of COVID-19 cases being imported into the Yukon.

Hanley explained that the risk is manageable as long as local safety precautions – physical distancing, hand-washing and staying home while sick – are followed.

The launch of phase two will also see the allowance of reopening public pools and expansion of the Fireweed Market.

The pool at the Canada Games Centre has not announced a reopening date of July 1.

Public pools are considered a low-risk activity, according to a government press release.

Public pool regulations are on the government website. All pools must submit an operational plan and receive approval before opening to the public.

The downtown farmers market will also be permitted to host non-food vendors, including artisans and flower sellers, starting July 1.

Buskers will also be permitted. Information booths are still banned.

Outdoor seating will also be permitted, with physical distancing maintained.

On July 1, outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people will also be permitted.

Silver said the Yukon will remain in this phase for two to four weeks before entering phase three of the reopening plan.

In phase three, Hanley said he will consider expanding the “double bubble” for households, after watching the movement of other jurisdictions.

“I’m also cautious about doing too many things at once, because then it’s hard to know where you might be exposing yourself to more risk,” Hanley said.

“We’ve probably got enough of a package for phase two that I would be happy to stay where we are; we’re expanding outdoor gatherings, which is kind of a big deal.”

Silver was asked by media about the growing concerns of Yukoners who are seeing U.S. licence plates at Whitehorse big box stores, and whether there is consideration of closing the border to American travellers entirely.

“It always does concern us and it’s a conversation at first ministers’ meetings,” Silver said.

“For now, our provision is Alaskans travelling through are to travel directly through, and they have 24 hours.”

Silver asked that Yukoners not engage with travellers, but report any concerns directly to the government’s enforcement line.

Comments (1)

Up 33 Down 6

Yukon Cornelius on Jun 25, 2020 at 4:15 pm

... and when the Government of Northwest Territories learned of Sandy Silvers plan to open the Yukon up to the other 2 Territories, the Government of Northwest Territories promptly shut its border with the Yukon because they don't want what they believe are going to be new COVID-19 cases as a result of the Yukon opening up its border with British Columbia.

Nothing like 'consultation' with key stakeholders, Sandy!

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