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Tears and 'divorce': Yukon bursts B.C. travel bubble amid rising COVID-19 cases

The Yukon government is 'divorcing' from its COVID-19 travel bubble with British Columbia. The rule goes into effect on Friday, and also applies to people coming in from the Northwest Territories, as well as Nunavut.

'This decision was not made lightly,' says Premier Sandy Silver

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

The Yukon government is 'divorcing' from its COVID-19 travel bubble with British Columbia, as case counts rise across the country.

"Following a recommendation from Yukon's chief medical officer of health, we are ending the B.C.-territory mobility bubble," said Premier Sandy Silver at an update on Thursday. 

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

The rule goes into effect on Friday, and also applies to people coming in from neighbouring B.C. and the Northwest Territories, as well as Nunavut.

Silver said exceptions will be made for people living in border areas including Atlin, Lower Post, Fireside, Jade City, Fraser and Pleasant Camp, B.C., as well as transboundary First Nations.

"These decisions are so difficult to make," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley, who appeared to tear up as he spoke about the travel restrictions.

"We know there will be families, and friends, students and visitors with broken hearts," said Hanley, his voice breaking.

"But I feel this decision is in the overall best interest of Yukoners at this moment."

Silver said recent cases in Yukon, combined with "dramatic increases in cases in Nunavut and British Columbia, and across the country made this a very necessary decision."

Silver said the territorial government is recommending against non-essential travel outside the territory. He also asked Yukoners to "think carefully" about travel within the territory.

Missed Thursday's news conference? Watch it here:

"This decision was not made lightly," said Silver, who acknowledged the impact that a lack of B.C. visitors will have on businesses. He encouraged people to shop locally during the holiday season.

"I appreciate that this is not welcome news to a lot of Yukoners," said Silver. "However, we must consider what is needed to keep Yukoners safe."

'Extremely amicable divorce' with B.C.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, referred to ending the B.C. bubble as "the divorce," saying that he recommends the bubble remains suspended until case counts stabilize.

He said recent COVID-19 case increases in B.C. and Nunavut are "good reminders that we need to do this now."

Nunavut reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, raising the territory's total number of cases to 74.

On Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan called for all non-essential travel between provinces to end as the province announced a record high of 762 new cases and 10 more deaths.

Yukon Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said imposing new travel restrictions with B.C. was a difficult decision. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

Hanley recommended that people planning to travel in upcoming weeks reconsider their plans.

"I know many had plans to travel to B.C. and I'm sorry to say that these should be cancelled, or rearranged," he said. "But we are in a time that requires solidarity, concerted action, and some sacrifice."

Although B.C. and Yukon are separated, Hanley added, "it's an extremely amicable divorce."

'COVID karma'

This comes as a new case of COVID-19 in Whitehorse was also announced Wednesday evening, bringing Yukon's case total to 26. 

Hanley said the latest case was not the reason for deciding to burst the bubble—it was merely a coincidence.

"I often feel we're sometimes in a  bit of COVID karma," said Hanley.

Officials are investigating the source of exposure for the latest case, and are reaching out to anyone who may have come in contact with the person who tested positive.

Anyone who was at the following locations during the the times listed should call the COVID-19 testing centre in Whitehorse, or their community's health centre, if they develop symptoms:

  • Starbucks on Main Street in Whitehorse, on Nov. 12 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or Nov. 13 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Starbucks on Chilkoot Way in Whitehorse, on Nov. 14 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Better Bodies in Whitehorse, on Nov. 12 between 6:30 p.m. and closing, or Nov. 13 between 6:30 p.m. and closing.
  • Diwali Festival on 120 Copper Rd. in Whitehorse, on Nov. 14 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. 
  • Giorgio's Cuccina in Whitehorse, on Nov. 14 between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 
  • Tony's Pasta and Seafood House in the SKKY hotel, on the Alaska Highway in Whitehorse, on Nov. 14 between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Hanley did not provide recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing on Thursday, but said more news on masking will likely be coming.

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