Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on Jan. 20. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on Jan. 20. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

‘New sense of calm’ as Yukon loosens public health restrictions

Youth vaccination clinics are set to begin next week

While the Yukon begins to ease public health restrictions and open borders, the update from the chief officer of public health on Wednesday noted that other parts of the country are still not in recovery mode.

“We are in a curious position, where the COVID situation is so varied across the country,” said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Hanley. “The stark reality is that many places are still imposing restrictions and lockdowns to get COVID under control and save lives.”

“Once again, we can only be grateful for how well we have done and how much loss and tragedy we have managed to avoid,” he said.

As of May 26, the number of eligible adults vaccinated in the Yukon is sitting at 77 per cent.

Clinics will begin next week to vaccinate youth ages 12 to 17 with the Pfizer vaccine. These clinics are for youth only, and unvaccinated adults should inquire about getting vaccines in a different method to allow for the small teams to focus on the priority population under 18.

“For the time being, we are not in the position to administer Pfizer to individuals outside of this age group because we have a limited supply that needs to be allocated to the intended population,” Hanley said.

According to Hanley, the territory has administered second doses of Moderna to those who received a first of Pfizer in another jurisdiction.

On May 25, the territory began to ease public health restrictions.

Bars and restaurants have returned to full capacity, social bubbles can increase to 20 people and gathering sizes have increased. Indoor gatherings can increase to 20 people with mask use, and outdoor gatherings can accommodate 100 people. Organized gatherings can increase to 200 individuals.

The territory has also lifted self-isolation restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated.

Those entering the territory will need to give permission for the government to verify their vaccinations in their health record. Right now, Premier Sandy Silver said verification is only possible for residents of the territory and B.C.

Silver said if an individual does not want to disclose health information, they can still enter the territory but must self-isolate.

The territory’s public health emergency was also extended for another 90 days. The extension allows for the continued enforcement of self-isolation rules.

“These measures have helped keep Yukon safe over the past year and we must keep them in place for now,” Silver said, adding that as case numbers decline, restrictions will continue to be eased.

He said he was encouraged by British Columbia’s plan to begin easing restrictions over the summer and fall.

Silver said more information about the Great Yukon Summer campaign, which will provide discounts for locals in the territory, will be released on May 27.

“As you return to your favourite spots in the Yukon or discover new ones, please remember to travel safely,” said Silver.

There have been no new cases announced, which Hanley said could likely be attributed to falling COVID-19 rates in most jurisdictions in Canada.

“This is certainly encouraging news. It is also not the end of the pandemic, not yet,” he said.

Hanley said although caseloads are falling around Canada, there is still a risk of importation and the territory can expect to see some cases in the coming months, although the level of vaccination does reduce the risk of large clusters. He said people who have been vaccinated should still monitor for symptoms and seek testing.

“I feel and I welcome a new sense of calm in the community,” Hanley said. He said he is looking forward to a time when we no longer have to announce every individual case, similar to how we manage seasonal influenza.

“We are solidly on the path to recovery,” he said, cautioning that we will be living with COVID-19 for years but the transition to post-pandemic life will continue. “Eventually the world too will get over this, and COVID will move from pandemic to endemic disease.”

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Coronavirus

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