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Nunavut and Yukon travel bubble remains a possibility

Dr. Michael Patterson feels “a bit leery” of forming the travel bubble between Nunavut and Yukon at this time. Photo courtesy of Canadian North

Despite Yukon opening its borders to Nunavummiut, only time will tell whether Nunavut will return the favour.

Beginning July 1, Nunavummiut will be permitted to enter Yukon without self-isolating for 14-days, as long as they travel directly from a territory or through British Columbia.

However, the Government of Yukon’s announcement has not changed the requirements Dr. Michael Patterson has placed for entering Nunavut, where individuals must still self-isolate for two weeks.

During Thursday’s press conference, Patterson said there is a possibility of forming a travel bubble with Yukon, but there are a number of risk factors involved. The chief public health officer said he feels “a bit leery” of forming the travel bubble at this time and thus prefers to “wait and see how things go for a bit.”

Presently, Nunavut has only formed a travel bubble with Northwest Territories that does not require mandatory self-isolation. There is also an exception for medical travellers, who are specifically travelling to Churchill, Manitoba and back. These medical travellers do not have to self-isolate in order to enter Nunavut.

Patterson also said the government is currently “trying to figure out” if a travel bubble with Nunavik will be possible.

Investment in airlines
Finance Minister George Hickes said the negotiations with the airlines have not included subsidizing tickets for the public to purchase.

The minister added the Government of Nunavut (GN) is supporting duty travel and medical travel through providing money to the airlines; not personal travel.

The GN is providing the airlines money so they remain sustainable, he explained.

“We're demanding basically, that they (airlines) continue at least a minimum level of service. And that's what we're paying for,” said Hickes.

“We need to make sure that these transportation lines are still open for people movement, for services and for goods movement.”

Hickes believes the GN is getting a return on investment by having these aforementioned services available.

Canadian North spokesperson Kelly Lewis stated the airline will not be offering any reduced rates or discounts to those who wish to travel between Nunavut and the NWT, but has reduced the price of economy fares since the beginning of the year.

Lewis said the company recognizes flights between Rankin Inlet and Yellowknife are currently more expensive due to a layover in Cambridge Bay.

"This temporary route change was introduced in response to a request from the Government of Nunavut related to the COVID-19 crisis," stated Lewis.

"We will continue to consult with the Government of Nunavut and our other stakeholders about future plans for this route to ensure we are meeting the essential needs of Nunavummiut. In the meantime, the direct route between Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet will benefit customers needing to travel and ship between those communities, with better pricing and shorter travel time."

Opening schools
In fall, Patterson plans to reopen schools, colleges and community learning centres, if the present Covid-19 situation remains the same in Nunavut.

The public health emergency has been extended until July 9.

There are still no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Nunavut. Presently, 121 people are under investigation for Covid-19.