Chief medical officer Catherine Elliott has introduced new recommendations after a spike in case counts post-Christmas.
The 34 new cases reported on Dec. 30 are an “early sign of community transmission” of Omicron, the government said. Community transmission means that cases of COVID-19 can not be completely traced and people should assume they can pick up the virus from anywhere.
The territory is bracing for more cases as Yukoners return from travel around the country. Returning residents have been advised to self-isolate for three days upon return and undertake essential trips only for the first five days.
“People need to know that it’s highly transmissible and we are seeing spread in household gatherings, workplaces and organized events. And even among people who are vaccinated as well as those who are not vaccinated,” said Elliott.
“This is expected because even though the vaccine prevents some infections and many hospitalizations, they cannot prevent all of them,” she said.
The Omicron variant is considered much more easily transmitted between people than the Delta variant.
Elliott is now “strongly recommending” that close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 who have not received a booster shot should self-isolate for seven days.
A close contact is anyone who was within six feet (two metres) for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period while someone was infectious.
Everyone, including those with a booster, should avoid close contact with any confirmed cases.
If no symptoms are present during the seven-day period, people can leave isolation but should continue to self-monitor in case they experience Omicron symptoms in the second week.
As always, other methods of guarding against the virus include keeping your distance from others, keeping your hands clean, staying home if ill, avoiding crowds, avoiding travelling to communities, self-isolating if necessary and wearing a mask.
More regulations could be coming
Right now the advice to isolate if connected to a case is a strong recommendation. Before the holidays Elliott also released advice that travellers returning to the Yukon should self-isolate for three days upon return, and only take essential trips for the first five days back.
Elliott said actual restrictions, backed by the Civil Emergency Measures Act, could be forthcoming.
“I am working closely with the government on that piece and watch this space for an announcement in that regard,” she said.
Asked if there was an approximate timeline for the new health orders, Elliott said, “I think we’ll have an announcement as soon as we have them.”
A number of other provinces and territories have already announced new measures to deal with the upcoming wave. In the Northwest Territories, for example, return to school has been delayed until Jan. 10 and close contacts to COVID-19 cases are required to isolate for ten days.
Elliott said the current testing positivity rate is sitting at 19 per cent, meaning that some cases are being missed. She urged people who might be experiencing symptoms but not getting tested to exercise caution.
“We ask people with symptoms if they choose not to get tested, to please isolate. Because you don’t want to be part of the spread of this. And that’s really important,” she said.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org