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Yukon aims to lift restrictions on travel to and from B.C., starting July 1

Yukon health officials say the territory could lift restrictions on travel to or from B.C. starting as early as July 1.

'Getting through this pandemic means taking calculated, smart, and perhaps bold risks,' says top doctor

Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley and Premier Sandy Silver said Friday the territory is on track to begin the second phase of its reopening plan on July 1. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon is looking to again allow the free flow of people between the territory and neighbouring B.C., starting in July. 

Yukon health officials made the announcement on Friday, saying the territory is on track to begin the second phase of its reopening plan on July 1.

Easing the border restrictions with B.C. means that anybody arriving in Yukon from B.C. will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said it makes sense to "intentionally partner" with B.C., but he also acknowledged the ongoing risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Let's not kid ourselves, just like any of our opening measures, any relaxing of the borders will involve taking more risk with COVID[-19]," Hanley said.

"Getting through this pandemic means taking calculated, smart, and perhaps bold risks. If we carefully relax our borders, we will open up a way to provide relief to people suffering under the current measures — whether that means more customers, access to goods, a safer drug supply, or a chance to connect with friends or family."

Hanley said anybody arriving from B.C. will still be subject to questions at the border, to ensure that they haven't been outside of B.C. in the previous 14 days.

An RV is stopped at the checkpoint at the Watson Lake, Yukon, weigh scales in April. (Submitted by the Government of Yukon)

As of Thursday, B.C. had 241 active cases of COVID-19, with 33 people in hospital. To date, that province has seen 2,558 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 164 people have died of the illness.

Yukon has seen 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and all of the affected people have recovered. It's been more than a month since the last confirmed cases were announced.

Premier Sandy Silver said allowing more ease of travel between the two jurisdictions is "not only a question of geography."

"It is based on science, careful risk assessment, and our confidence in how British Columbia is managing this pandemic," Silver said.

Watch Friday's news conference here:

Silver said the second phase of reopening would also allow for outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people. Right now, only gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed.

Also on Friday, the territory released guidelines for Yukoners to again travel through the territory. Since March, Yukoners have been discouraged from travelling outside of their own community.

Silver urged anybody travelling to a community to respect the wishes of municipal and First Nation governments, and to continue to be cautious.

"Please do not linger unnecessarily outside shops or in the communities if you do not have a specific purpose for being there," Silver said.

Officials said they will continue to watch how things evolve in the weeks ahead, and said reopening plans could change if the risk level changes.

Gradual easing of restrictions

The territory has already begun to gradually ease some restrictions associated with the pandemic. Earlier this week, personal service businesses such as hair salons and tattoo parlours were allowed to reopen under new guidelines and with approval from health officials.

And on Friday, restaurants could also reopen their dining rooms, also under new guidelines and subject to approval from health officials.

Next week, territorial campgrounds will open for the season. On Friday, the government offered guidelines for campers to follow at the parks, urging them to pre-purchase permits, be as self-contained as possible, and avoid going into nearby communities for supplies.

The parks open on June 4. 

Friday's news conference also included a virtual town hall, with Hanley and Silver answering questions submitted this week by Yukoners.

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