Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley said on April 22 it will likely be 12 to 18 months before things return to normal in the Yukon, with some restrictions being lifted in the next month to two months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

It could be 12 to 18 months before things back to ‘normal’ in the Yukon, CMOH says

Some measures could be relaxed in one to two months, some expected to remain for a year or longer

Some of the COVID-19 prevention measures could be in place for the next 12 to 18 months, says Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health.

Hanley revealed this information during the Yukon government’s COVID-19 update press conference on April 22.

He clarified that some of the measures could be re-evaluated or relaxed in the next couple of months but it would likely be more than a year before everything could be lifted in its entirety.

Hanley said there are plans being formulated to allow for the economy to open back up. There were no details provided, but he did say there would be an announcement related to this on April 24.

He said the main factor in the decision to relax or lift measures would be testing capacity. There would need to be more testing capacity in more susceptible areas like long-term care facilities.

Until that happens, he explained the “new normal” of social distancing would prevail, adding that the territory couldn’t go back to a pre-COVID-19 reality without a vaccine and community that is largely immune to the virus.

He did say officials would be examining which guidelines could be relaxed, including those that affect business currently affected by preventative measures or closed recreation and cultural facilities.

“I think we can make life a little more bearable,” Hanley said.

Measures can’t be lifted too quickly as this could lead to the territory ending up behind the curve, he explained, adding that everyone needs to exercise patience, stamina and support.

He warned against using tobacco, alcohol, vaping or other drugs to cope with the stresses. He said COVID-19 can be tough on vapers and smokers, especially if the individual has an underlying illness related to the habit.

Hanley said the border restrictions are an example of measures that need to remain in place, since all of the Yukon’s COVID-19 cases are related to travel Outside. He added that the goal is to prevent the importation of cases.

“This means keeping the borders tight,” Hanley said.

There were no new cases or recoveries announced during the update.

As of 3:30 p.m. on April 22, a total of 878 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the Yukon. Eleven of those tests were positive and eight of those people who tested positive are considered recovered. A total of 16 tests are pending results and 851 people tested negative for the virus.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com