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‘Hopefully good news by the end of March’ on travel bubble with Yukon

MLAs and residents are calling for a travel bubble with the Yukon to be implemented, to open up travel routes for residents.

Yukon closed their travel bubble with B.C. back in November. The threat of importation of COVID-19 from B.C. had been cited as one of the reasons NWT didn’t open a travel bubble with the Yukon when they had a travel bubble with Nunavut.

Now the border with B.C. is closed, and travellers moving to Alaska are restricted to a specific corridor, MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes Lesa Semmler is asking if the NWT will allow exemptions for NWT travellers to enter Yukon.

MLA Inuvik Twin Lakes Lesa Semmler. (Photo by staff.)

“The Dempster Highway is a vital lifeline for the Beaufort-Delta and access to essential services, services they cannot get in the NWT by road, and it’s too expensive by flight for most families,” she said in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

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“We’re looking for exemptions; we’re looking for anything,” she added.

Health Minister Julie Green said while conversations are not currently happening in her department, she committed to bringing it up when she next met with NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, who would ultimately make the decision.

Isolation requirements for travellers from Nunavut were recently loosened, allowing most travelers from Nunavut to come to the Northwest Territories without isolating, unless in specific circumstances.

Health Minister Julie Green noted this is not a return to the travel bubble the NWT had with Nunavut, which was also suspended back in November — when the second wave of COVID-19 was ramping up in the south of Canada. NWT residents who travel to Nunavut still have to isolate.

Green added that any travel bubble would be dependent on what the territorial government in Yukon decides.

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“We can only control our own border,” she said. “The Yukon can put whatever conditions in place they feel they need. We put our conditions in place to meet our own circumstances. It’s not as easy as just throwing the border open and saying, ‘Look, it’s all going to be good.’ The Yukon needs to decide that it is good for them.”

Green noted that with the GNWT on schedule to administer COVID-19 vaccines to 75 per cent of the eligible adult population by the end of March, and with Yukon on a similar schedule, the GNWT may “have the good news prepared for the end of March.”

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