Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (NWT) are still holding discussions about forming a potential travel bubble between the neighbouring territories.
This week, the Government of the Northwest Territories adjusted its border restrictions to ensure compliance with the mobility provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prior to May 29, only NWT residents and critical workers were able to enter the territory. However, the NWT is now open to anyone as long as they self-isolate for 14 days.
“We’re still interested in (a travel bubble),” said Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson.
But the GNWT’s change in stance has made things more complicated for Nunavut.
“We want to understand exactly what’s going to happen and how this will impact the potential risks before we make a firm decision one way or another,” said Patterson.
The criteria for forming the travel bubble involves both territories remaining Covid-free, said Patterson.
Also, there must be a way to ensure a loophole is not created, “where people can go into that territory and then come into Nunavut, and use it as a means to bypass the isolation requirements,” said Patterson during June 11 press conference.
When asked whether Nunavut’s current travel restrictions infringe on mobility rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Patterson replied, “The opinion of our lawyers is that the infringement meets that threshold of acceptable under the emergency declaration.”
Since March, Nunavut has only allowed Nunavummiut and critical workers to enter the territory.
The potential impact of Covid-19 arriving in Nunavut’s remote communities is greater than for most other communities across the country, Patterson explained.
“That greater impact requires greater care and, unfortunately, greater restrictions at this time,” he said.
Besides the stringent border restrictions, the Government of Nunavut continues to uphold its mandatory self-isolation measures in designated southern cities.
“I want to assure Nunavummiut that anyone who does not follow the rules that apply to everyone coming into Nunavut, (they) must restart isolation and spend another 14 days in the hub,” said Premier Joe Savikataaq.
He added for the past three month, the GN has taken self-isolation and entry into Nunavut “very seriously.” It has prevented Covid-19 from reaching Nunavut, he explained.
“There will be absolutely no double standards, no difference in treatment between isolation guests, and no exceptions,” said Savikataaq.
There is, however, one exception. On May 21, Patterson announced that Nunavut’s medical travellers receiving treatment in Yellowknife are no longer required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Since May 26, 114 medical travellers, including medical escorts, have entered the territory from Yellowknife.
Presently there are no Covid-19 cases in the territory, although 128 people are still under investigation for Covid-19.
If all goes well, Patterson plans to discuss the next phase of the reopening plans on June 15.