How B.C. travellers feel about getting into Yukon hours before bubble burst

CBC News went to the Whitehorse airport to meet the final travellers arriving in Yukon before mandatory isolation rules kicked in Friday evening.

New COVID-19 isolation restrictions kicked in at 5 p.m. on Friday

Suna Galay had originally booked a flight to arrive in Whitehorse from Vancouver this upcoming Tuesday, but booked a last minute ticket for Friday to get into Yukon on time to help a friend give birth. (Danielle d'Entremont / CBC)

If Allyson Day hadn't booked a last minute flight on Thursday, she wouldn't have been able to see her grandchildren over the holidays.

"We found the borders were closing, and it was like, just get the flights right. Otherwise I'm going to be stuck in Vancouver," she said. 

Day was on one of the final flights to arrive in Yukon from her home in British Columbia, before new mandatory isolation measures kicked in Friday evening for nearly all travellers entering the territory. 

On Wednesday night, Premier Sandy Silver announced that everyone except critical services workers will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Yukon.

The rule has been on since 5 p.m. local time on Friday, and also applies to people coming in from the Northwest Territories, as well as Nunavut, with few exceptions.

'I was just beside myself'

Day said finding out she only had a couple days to figure out her travel plans came as a shock.

"I was just beside myself, I actually didn't know what to do.  I didn't think I was going to get here. I didn't think I could get everything organized on time," Day said. 

Since her family would not have been able to take the time off to isolate with her, she would have stayed in Vancouver if she couldn't get on the last-minute flight. 

"I'm totally relieved to have got here. It would've been heartbreaking to miss Christmas with the children," she said. "I'm very very happy to have got here."

Allyson Day booked a last minute ticket from Vancouver to Whitehorse when she found out about the new border restrictions. (Wayne Vallevand/ CBC)

Suna Galay had originally booked a flight to arrive in Whitehorse from Vancouver this upcoming Tuesday, to help her friend who's about to have a baby. 

"When we found out about this yesterday she's like 'you need to get on a plane today or tomorrow morning,'" Galay said.

Galay, who is a doula, could have potentially missed the birth due to isolation measures if they weren't able to secure the last minute flight change.

The baby is due Dec. 11, and it will be Galay's first birth, making getting into Whitehorse on time feel "pretty magical."

The 5 p.m. deadline is a hard one, said director of communications for Community Services Aisha Montgommery in an email to CBC News.

"The only exceptions that will be made for travellers entering Yukon as of  5pm today will be for critical services workers, everyone else is subject to the same 14 day self-isolation requirement," Montgommery, said Friday. 

Travellers were notified via updates to the government website, through social media, and through the Yukon government holding two news conferences.

Montgommery added that the government has shared the information with the airlines, and Air North will be doing briefings with passengers so that they know what to expect when they land.

'Considerable' number of last-minute bookings

Dozens of people were scrambling to get their Air North flights rebooked back to Whitehorse from B.C. before the bubble burst, according to Ben Ryan, the airline's chief commercial officer. 

"We had a considerable number of bookings [Thursday] night," said Ryan, although he said their flights were not full.

Ryan said the airline was caught somewhat off guard by the announcement on Wednesday evening, although they had been watching the trends in British Columbia. 

Roxanne Stanley-Lyslo (left), Nola Munro (centre) and Antje Beaman (right) are flight attendants for Air North. The Yukon-based airline says they saw about 60 people trying to book flights on Thursday night before the bubble burst. (Steve Silva/CBC)

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Thursday that British Columbians should not travel for non-essential reasons and anyone planning a trip to B.C. should take a rain check.

Health officials in B.C. confirmed another 516 cases of COVID-19 on Friday evening and 10 more deaths, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. 

People entering the Yukon will now be provided information about what is expected and will be required to sign a declaration that outlines their self-isolation plans.

with files from Laura Howells