Self-isolation rules still apply to N.W.T, Nunavut residents travelling by air to Yukon
Self-isolation is only waived for those that can come straight to Yukon through B.C.
Northerners travelling to Yukon via southern airports outside of British Columbia will still have to self-isolate upon arrival, according to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.
On July 1, premier Silver extended the Yukon-B.C. travel bubble to include those from the N.W.T and Nunavut — only if they travel from their territory to Yukon or through British Columbia.
Data from Google Flights shows that all Air Canada flights from Yellowknife to Whitehorse will have layovers either in Edmonton or Calgary, Alta., en route to Vancouver. Flights from Iqaluit to Whitehorse often travel through Ottawa or Winnipeg to get to the territory.
In those cases, Premier Silver said northern residents arriving by air with layovers in provinces like Ontario and Alberta will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
'Making our decisions ... not just on geography'
"We're making our decisions not necessarily just on geography or ease of getting here but also epidemiology," Silver told reporters.
"At this time, we ... are opening ourselves as well, knowing full well that it's pretty hard for someone to come directly from Nunavut into Yukon."
The N.W.T announced a new travel bubble with Nunavut on June 12 as part of its Phase 2 reopening plans. The move struck down the self-isolation requirement for people travelling between the territories.
Yukon was initially excluded from the travel bubble because of its plans to loosen self-isolation requirements with British Columbia.
N.W.T. residents are still required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return from Yukon.
Premier recommends reserving charters
Silver said the travel bubble would directly benefit residents of Fort McPherson, N.W.T. — the closest community to Yukon along the Dempster Highway.
Residents of Tsiigehtchic, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., are also able to drive directly into Yukon via the Dempster.
Communities in the Dehcho, including Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson, N.W.T., would also be able to travel into Yukon through British Columbia without having to self-isolate. People looking to drive into B.C. through the N.W.T.'s Highway 7 will have to make an appointment to cross the border either on a Tuesday or Friday.
But, Silver continued, travel to Yukon from other parts of the territories "isn't impossible." He recommended that people consider chartering flights if necessary, but reinforced the message that travel should still be limited into the territory.
"You could charter from Inuvik or smaller communities and you'd be allowed to if you could come in," Silver said.
Anyone travelling to Yukon is asked to go to Yukon.ca to figure out if they meet the self-isolation requirements.
No direct flights to Whitehorse until mid-August
Air North, Yukon's main commercial airline, wrote on its website that its Whitehorse-Yellowknife-Ottawa route will be starting up again on Aug. 15. Once that flight is available, northerners could fly from Yellowknife to Whitehorse without having to self-isolate.
Kelly Lewis, a spokesperson for Canadian North, said in a statement that the N.W.T.'s main commercial airline will not be adding any direct flights between Yellowknife and Whitehorse during the northern travel bubble, because Yukon's capital city is not in their purview.
Canadian North is, however, adding a new flight from Yellowknife to the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut that will help residents travel between the N.W.T and Nunavut, Lewis said. The popular Yellowknife-Rankin Inlet route will not be reinstated in the meantime based on recommendations from the Nunavut government — but Lewis said they're looking into it.
"We understand that this is a routing that some people would like to see return so we will look at options to do so when the time is right," the statement reads.
'Not entirely a bubble'
Julian MacLean, a dietitian living in Inuvik, will be one of the first people taking advantage of the new northern travel bubble this weekend.
MacLean said he's making the time to do the hours-long, 1,200-kilometre drive down the Dempster Highway to Whitehorse to do some vehicle maintenance and grocery shopping before a possible second COVID-19 wave.
"Restrictions will probably get tighter again, so if I don't go now, I probably wont be able to go later," MacLean told CBC.
Maclean said his employer is letting him take the self-isolation time in the N.W.T. upon arrival as leave — but for many others, the N.W.T.'s self-isolation requirements upon return make travel less appealing.