Yukon travel bubble looks unlikely: premier

Premier Caroline Cochrane and Health Minister Julie Green. (Luke Carroll/CKLB)

Premier Caroline Cochrane says it does not look like there will be a travel bubble with the Yukon anytime soon.

Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa  Semmler pressed both Cochrane and Julie Green, Health and Social Services minister, on the possibility of getting exemptions from isolation when crossing the Yukon border in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

“My community of Inuvik and the surrounding communities in the Beaufort Delta have been cut off to services that are not available to my region, and with no road to Yellowknife, our closest road (goes to) Whitehorse,” Semmler said.

Residents are often driving to Whitehorse as opposed to flying to Yellowknife to save money, according to Semmler. She also highlighted mental health concerns in her constituency while public services remain closed and people  are suffering from isolation.

Cochrane said she and her staff had been in conversations with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, who was “more than interested” in easing travel restrictions, but issues remain with Yukon opening its borders with British Columbia.

“If (Silver) was to consider having an exemption, not a bubble, but an exemption, then he would not be OK with us closing the border when they open up to British Columbia,” she said. “In conversations, it will only be a couple of weeks.”

But in a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer, contradicted this. She said there is discussion currently for possible exemptions for Yukon residents.

This would be similar to the arrangement with Nunavut, but Dr. Kandola insisted these are just discussions.

During Tuesday’s sessions, Semmler described this as “not good news.” She further asked if there will be any easing of health-related restrictions in the NWT as immunization rates rise.

The premier responded by saying there are currently too many factors to consider easing restrictions, the main one being projected herd immunity dates for the provinces.

“They’re not projecting that the vaccines will be delivered in the South until late fall, September, so we have serious concerns,” Cochrane said.

She also pointed to the lack of research around COVID-19 vaccines and whether or not they prevent spread of the virus.

Semmler pressed on, asking if there is any end to the public health emergency in sight.

Green responded by saying Dr. Kandola still sees a threat to the public’s health from COVID-19, despite vaccinations.

As a result, the public health orders remain in place and the self-quarantine for 14 days remains in place, Green said.

Even though the NWT is over 40 per cent vaccinated, Green said that the whole of Canada is only 1.42 per cent vaccinated and there is still community transmission in the south.

“We look forward to a time when we can truly get this behind us, but that moment is not now.”

Updated 5:15 p.m. with additional information from Dr. Kandola.

About the Author

Brett McGarry
Brett is a digital and broadcast reporter for CKLB Radio. He has been living in Yellowknife since January of 2019 after moving from Ontario. He graduated from Humber College and has worked for NNSL Media. You can reach him at brett.mcgarry@cklbradio.com