North

Vuntut Gwitchin eases some travel restrictions to Old Crow

The fly-in community of Old Crow, Yukon, has eased COVID-19-related travel restrictions into the community — meaning, people can now go there again without explicit permission from the First Nation.

People no longer need permission from the First Nation to fly to Old Crow

'We feel that it is time to make some of these adjustments,' said Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The fly-in community of Old Crow, Yukon, has eased COVID-19-related travel restrictions into the community — meaning, people can now go there again without explicit permission from the First Nation.

The Vuntut Gwitchin government introduced tight measures in March, to control who arrives in the remote community. The measures came after a couple from Quebec arrived in Old Crow, apparently seeking refuge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm says he knows the pandemic is ongoing, but feels it's safe now to ease up on a few things.

"We feel that it is time to make some of these adjustments," he said.

Yukon has seen 11 cases of COVID-19, and all of the people have recovered from their illnesses. There has not been a new confirmed case in Yukon in more than three weeks.

People arriving in Old Crow will now no longer have to isolate for two weeks on arrival in the community. That was one of the restrictions introduced by the First Nation in March.

Now, the First Nation says anybody arriving in Yukon who has self-isolated in Whitehorse for two weeks won't have to isolate for a further two weeks on arrival in Old Crow. 

Not 'out of the woods yet'

But Tizya-Tramm says other restrictions and protocols will stay in place, including all those dictated by territorial health officials. And local events — including the annual Caribou Days — are still cancelled.

"Although you're seeing a lifting of some of the conditions, by no means does this mean we're out of the woods yet," he said.

People are still encouraged to maintain physical distance, he said. They're also asked to limit visits to places such as the local Co-op store, the airport terminal, or the First Nation's administration building.

Children play in Old Crow, Yukon, in May 2019. Even though the community has eased some restrictions, people are still asked to maintain physical distance from each other. (Heather Avery/CBC)

Some travel restrictions are also still in place — for example, anybody travelling to Old Crow must show no symptoms of COVID-19 before getting on the plane.

Still, Old Crow is not expecting an influx of tourists. Yukon's borders remain closed to non-essential visits, and Yukoners are still discouraged from travelling to other communities within the territory.

Tizya-Tramm also said that his First Nation could tighten things up again "at the drop of a hat," if the situation changes in Yukon.

He said Old Crow is in a unique position — it's both vulnerable to a serious outbreak because of its limited health services, but also better able to control access into or out of the community.

"I think that's the dichotomy of living in a remote community is that at one side it actually helps protect us. But on the other side it could work against us if there were to be a significant presence of COVID[-19] in the community — which is why we must be very vigilant," he said.

With files from Steve Silva

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