The Yukon is set to begin welcoming visitors from British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and possibly other provinces, July 1 as the territory enters Phase 2 of its reopening plan amid COVID-19.
“This marks a significant milestone,” Premier Sandy Silver said during the June 30 COVID-19 update.
The border will open to those from B.C. and the two other territories without self-isolation requirements, provided they have not travelled through any other jurisdictions.
Travellers from other parts of the country can also come into the territory as of July 1, provided they have a self-isolation plan and isolate in Whitehorse for 14 days after their arrival.
This marks a change from a week earlier when the Yukon government indicated current restrictions on travel would remain in place for those from provinces outside of B.C.
As Silver explained during the update, the territory is in a good position dealing with COVID-19 with no cases since April 20. He stressed the provisions to self-isolate in Whitehorse for those coming from other jurisdictions outside of B.C. and the two territories.
Americans travelling between Alaska and other states can continue to travel through the Yukon via the designated routes.
Silver said enforcement officers would remain in place at border crossings to provide information on the requirements.
Visitor information centres are also scheduled to open July 1.
While the borders will open, both Silver and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley emphasized a large influx of visitors is not anticipated as travel from other parts of the country, though now permitted provided visitors isolate, is not advised.
At the same time, Silver pointed to figures showing more than 17,000 have made their way into the territory as essential or critical workers or for other reasons that have been permitted since borders were closed.
Hanley noted that July 1 will bring new challenges for the territory as Yukoners navigate a world where COVID-19 is a fact of daily life.
“Since the gates shut in March we have been able to fend off outbreaks and kept the numbers of cases to a minimum,” he said. “We have kept our seniors and our vulnerable populations safe. We were able to take the time to learn about COVID-19, learn from others and prepare our defences. I am confident we are prepared to meet this new challenge of living with COVID-19 while progressively restoring our overall health.”
Hanley later acknowledged in answering questions from the media: “We have to live our lives, but we have to live them differently.”
Throughout the update Silver and Hanley emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and continuing to practice what’s been labeled as the safe six: physical distancing; regular hand washing; staying home when sick; not gathering in groups of more than 10 indoors and 50 outdoors; limiting travel to rural communities and being respectful when you’re there; and self-isolating in Whitehorse for anyone who’s just arrived in the Yukon from anywhere other than British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Just under an hour after the update finished, the Yukon government released another press release stating individuals will now be required to wear non-medical masks at all Yukon airports effective July 1. No one from the government was made available for comment.
Phase 2 also allows for outdoor gatherings of up to 50 provided physical distancing is practised, reopening of public swimming pools with an approved plan, the sale of non-food items and busking at markets, and a loosening of restaurant restrictions to potentially allow greater capacity provided distancing measures are met.
While the new measures will lift a number of restrictions, Silver and Hanley both said officials will be monitoring how Phase 2 goes and make adjustments if necessary.
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