On Nov. 18, the Yukon government announced that as of Nov. 20, anyone entering the territory (including Yukoners returning home) would be required to self-isolate with the exception of critical service workers, those exercising treaty rights and those living in B.C. border towns (Atlin, Lower Post, Fire Side and Jade City), which require travel into the territory for amenities.
The increasing number of COVID-19 cases outside the Yukon as well as projections for expected cases in B.C. prompted the territory to require nearly everyone coming into the territory to self-isolate for 14 days.
The move effectively bursts the “bubble” the territory had with B.C., the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, which allowed for travel between the jurisdictions without having to self-isolate.
“It does feel a bit like going back,” the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley said during a Nov. 19 press conference where he and Premier Sandy Silver emphasized the recommendation and decision were not made lightly.
Along with highlighting the decision to end the bubble, they also urged Yukoners to rethink any travel plans and said the decision to end — or “divorce” as Hanley put it — the bubble had been difficult, but also “very necessary” as Silver stated.
Hanley recognized many Yukoners have plans to travel in the coming weeks.
“I’m sorry to say that these should be cancelled, or rearranged,” he said. “But we are in a time that requires solidarity, concerted action, and some sacrifice.”
Silver recognized the change will impact businesses and encouraged Yukoners to support local businesses, suggesting seasonal shoppers perhaps limit their Amazon purchases in favour of shopping at Spruce Bog and the like.
“Yukon spirit needs to shine now more than ever,” he said.
Hanley said his office has been watching closely the numbers and projections of COVID-19 cases rise in B.C. daily and it came to a point where the risk was enough to recommend the change.
As of Nov. 19 at 11 a.m., the province had a total case count of 24,422. Of those, 6,861 are active cases with 762 new cases on Nov. 19 alone.
Along with the data analyzed that led to the decision to end the bubble was B.C. Premier John Hogan’s call for only essential travel into the province. Non-essential travel to the Lower Mainland has already been banned with more restrictions expected to be announced later in the day on Nov. 19.
While the announcement that the territory was ending the bubble came the same day that the Yukon’s 26th case of COVID-19 was announced, Hanley said that did not factor into his recommendation and subsequent government announcement.
“Case 26 was coincidental,” he said.
Officials are continuing contact tracing. Anyone who had been at any of the following locations and develops symptoms are asked to call the COVID-19 testing centre in Whitehorse or their community’s health centre: Starbucks on Main Street in Whitehorse, on Nov. 12 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or Nov. 13 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; Starbucks on Chilkoot Way in Whitehorse, on Nov. 14 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Better Bodies on Nov. 12 between 6:30 p.m. and closing, or Nov. 13 between 6:30 p.m. and closing; the Diwali Festival on Nov. 14 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Giorgio’s Cuccina on Nov. 14 between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; and Tony’s Pasta and Seafood House on Nov. 14 between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, officials are continuing to work on a mask policy for the territory though Hanley said a number of factors have to be considered such as enforcement, exemptions as well as ensuring there is access to masks.
Hanley stressed the importance of wearing a mask when asked to or required by a business or facility or when distancing measures cannot be met.
He suggested masks could serve as a seventh step in addition to the Safe Six that include distancing, hand washing and other measures.
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