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Yukon says travellers through territory to stick to approved routes

Travellers heading to Alaska via the Yukon may only stop at a list of mandated gas stations and hotels, and must not turn off main highways.

Measures designed to keep travellers out of communities, reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission, premier says

An enforcement officer checks a truck travelling through Yukon. The Yukon government now has four mandated routes for people travelling through the territory to Alaska. (Submitted by Government of Yukon )

The Yukon government now has four mandated routes for people travelling through the territory to Alaska.

"This will help keep transitioning people out of the communities and identifies gas and food services on their route and on the road only," said Premier Sandy Silver during a COVID-19 update Tuesday.

Silver said travellers get a copy of the map when they enter the Yukon.

Travellers driving into the territory are met by enforcement officers at one of two checkpoints, either on the Alaska Highway weigh scales or Junction 37 weigh scales, where the Stewart-Cassiar Highway enters the territory from B.C.

If travellers meet criteria, they can enter, but have 24 hours to get out of Yukon.

In an email to CBC News, Breagha Fraser, a spokesperson for Yukon's emergency co-ordination centre said enforcement officers received the maps May 8 and have been distributing the information since then. 

The maps show the highways travellers can use and list approved businesses that can be visited, like gas stations, restaurants and hotels.

The longest route is Watson Lake to Beaver Creek. Most communities are approved, but travellers cannot stop in Burwash Landing or Destruction Bay. Travellers may also use the Haines Highway to Haines, Alaska, or the South Klondike Highway to Skagway.

All approved businesses, including ones in Whitehorse, are just off the Alaska Highway. 

No stops unless necessary

The map states travellers "must not stop in rural communities or Whitehorse for any non-essential reasons."

Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said he has heard Yukoners' concerns about Americans travelling through the territory would "leave COVID[-19] in their tracks." 

"So far, that has not happened despite hundreds, if not thousands, travelling through our territory," said Hanley.

As of May 13, more than 3,100 non-resident people have travelled through Yukon to Alaska or elsewhere in Canada, said Fraser.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley say strict border controls are needed to allow other restrictions to be lifted. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon does not keep track of whether people are travelling to Alaska or somewhere else.

"They provide enforcement officers with that information so our officers can ensure they meet the requirements of transiting through Yukon," said Fraser.

Border controls vital, officials say

There is a temporary ban on non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada. It is set to expire May 21.

Hanley said Yukon cannot limit travel to those who are returning home to Alaska or military families relocating to one of the nine U.S. military bases in Alaska.

"But we can and will ensure that they will move through in a way that does not threaten our safety."

On Tuesday, both Hanley and Silver emphasized the importance of strict border controls in keeping COVID-19 out of Yukon.

Hanley says strict border controls will allow some restrictions to be lifted within the territory.

Silver tweeted on Tuesday that Yukon's reopening plan will be unveiled on Friday. 

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