COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted next month, Yukon premier says

·3 min read
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley provided an update on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday morning. (Government of Yukon - image credit)
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley provided an update on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday morning. (Government of Yukon - image credit)

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says the territory is "getting to a better place," in its fight against COVID-19, and is on track to lift public health restrictions as early as next month.

Some restrictions are being eased immediately — including those limiting the sizes of gatherings, and the recommendation to keep kids home from daycare.

The territory is still grappling with a wave of new infections that began last month, and as of Tuesday there were still 93 active cases in the territory. On Monday, officials announced the territory's sixth death.

Silver called the recent death "a stark and tragic reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated."

But he said that overall, things are looking better in the territory than they were a month ago, with a "slow but steady decrease" in the number of new cases.

"We're confident that we're getting through this and if this trend continues, we will be lifting the state of emergency next month," Silver said.

"This will mean that all restrictions introduced under the Civil Emergency Measures Act in response to COVID-19 will be lifted and we can focus our efforts on recovery."

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Yukon officials say their goal now is to see 95 per cent of the population vaccinated. More vaccinated people means there's less need for government to set and enforce rules, Silver said.

"What you're going to see, not only in Yukon but across Canada and internationally, is a shift from government regulations and restrictions and enforcement, and a shift toward an onus on individual responsibilities. And that's where the new normal is going to go," Silver said.

As of Monday, 85 per cent of adult Yukoners had received at least one shot of vaccine, and 77 per cent had received both shots. Among those aged 12 to 17, 71 per cent had received one shot and 53 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley, also speaking at Wednesday's news conference, said vaccines have helped minimize the impact of the recent wave of infections in Yukon. He said without vaccinations, more people would have been infected, gotten seriously ill, and been hospitalized.

"Vaccine has saved us from a worse fate, but the remaining numbers of people susceptible to the virus have been an open invitation for COVID-19 to come in and set up shop," Hanley said.

'Can I ask if you are vaccinated?'

Some restrictions are being eased immediately, officials announced Wednesday.

Gatherings can now increase in size. Last month, those restrictions were tightened amid the recent outbreak and people were advised to limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to six people.

Now, indoor gatherings can increase to 20 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people — for vaccinated people. Health officials say unvaccinated people should stick to gatherings of six.

Organized events — such as weddings and funerals — can again be as large as 200 people.

Hanley encouraged people to consider any risk associated with informal social gatherings — and pay "very close attention" to who they're seeing and whether or not they've had their shots.

The Canadian Press/Mike Thomas
The Canadian Press/Mike Thomas

"It may feel awkward to pop the question, 'can I ask if you are vaccinated?' And perhaps if we get close to 95 per cent or higher for [vaccine] uptake, the question will not be as relevant," Hanley said.

"But for the time being I invite you to consider the vaccine status of people that you mix closely with."

Also, starting Monday, parents will no longer be advised to keep their children home from daycare. That recommendation was made last month after a number of cases were confirmed at some daycare facilities.

Since June 1, 317 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Yukon and four people have died. Since the start of the pandemic, 388 people in Yukon have recovered and six people have died.

As of Monday, 85 per cent of adult Yukoners had received at least one shot of vaccine, and 77 per cent had received both shots. Among those aged 12 to 17, 71 per cent had received one shot and 53 per cent were fully vaccinated.

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