New, extended programs offered to Yukon businesses as COVID-19 cases return to zero

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WHITEHORSE — Yukon is beginning to look toward revising its pandemic restrictions as the number of active cases of COVID-19 returns to zero.

Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update in Whitehorse, deputy premier Ranj Pillai says Yukon is "putting resources in place" to be prepared when the time to adjust restrictions arrives.

In the meantime, Pillai says the government is extending and expanding assistance to hard-hit Yukon businesses.

Supports include extensions to Sept. 30 for several programs, including a plan that helps businesses break even and another that supports employers who pay workers to stay home when they're sick.

A new program also allows small and medium-sized businesses to seek up to $100,000 in deferred-interest loans, with no payments due until 2023 and forgiveness of 25 per cent of the amount if certain conditions are met.

Pillai and chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley both mentioned "hiccups" as the territory launched its online reservation site for immunization appointments, but Hanley says the problems have been resolved.

The availability of vaccine marks an "exciting time" for Yukon residents, he told the news conference on Thursday.

"We have seen an incredible uptake in appointments," Hanley says, confirming he has a booking next week for his first dose of the vaccine.

"The turnout so far shows so much promise that we are well on our way to immunizing the majority of our population."

Yukon has had 72 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the pandemic began.

Its website shows 10,781 people have received their first vaccination and 3,585 have been given their second shot.

The government has assured all Yukon residents who want the vaccine that they are guaranteed to receive both doses required for maximum immunity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press