The NWT’s health minister says she hopes to have “good news” regarding opening up travel between the territory and Yukon by the end of March.
At the NWT legislature on Tuesday, Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler asked the minister, Julie Green, whether discussions were taking place regarding the creation of an NWT-Yukon “travel bubble.”
The NWT used to have such a bubble with Nunavut, which meant residents could travel between the two territories without the need for isolation.
That bubble closed down in November as a Covid-19 outbreak grew in the Nunavut community of Arviat. However, last week the NWT began once again allowing some travellers from Nunavut to arrive without isolating.
Last year, a bubble with the Yukon was rejected as the Yukon was at the time open to travellers from British Columbia. That has since changed.
“Since November, Yukon has halted its bubble with BC and has put in place a dedicated corridor for Alaskan residents travelling to the rest of the US,” Semmler told the legislature.
“Those were the concerns when we discussed it in June. Will the minister have the discussion sooner than later?”
Green said work to create any NWT-Yukon bubble would be led by the territories’ chief public health officers. She pledged to raise the issue with the NWT’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, when the two next meet on Wednesday.
“I am aware people in the Delta would like to be able to travel to and from the Yukon without the two-week isolation, and I’m also aware the situation is different now because Yukon doesn’t have the open border it had before Christmas,” the minister said.
“I certainly will … find out the status of the discussions going on.”
Semmler, pushing for urgency, described the Dempster Highway connecting Inuvik and other Delta communities to the Yukon as a “lifeline.”
“We’re looking for anything,” she told the legislature.
Green said strong uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Delta communities would help the case for swift action in reopening travel, but added: “We can only control our own border.”
The minister said: “The Yukon can put in place whatever conditions they feel they need. It’s not as easy as throwing the border open and saying it’s all going to be good. The Yukon needs to decide it’s going to be good for them. There is a process here that we have to follow.”
Reiterating the NWT’s commitment to vaccinating 75 percent of its adult population by the end of March, Green said: “This is a live issue. I’m hoping to have the good news prepared for the end of March.”