The government is extending the current COVID-19 statement of emergency for another 90 days.
Premier Sandy Silver announced the decision at a press conference on March 3.
Despite the extension, both Silver and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley sounded optimistic about the vaccination campaign eventually allowing the Yukon to lessen public health restrictions.
“Only a few short weeks ago we would say things here at the table like ‘We’re not out of the woods yet. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel.’ Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line,” Silver said.
Hanley agreed that while variants are still unpredictable, the vaccination campaign and the warmer weather on the way could allow some easing of pandemic restrictions.
“Looking back to last year when spring arrived and people were able to get outside, we were able to gradually reduce restrictions that had been in place to protect us all. Once we achieve the goal of vaccinating a majority of Yukoners, there will be some flexibility with the current public health measures in place,” Hanley said.
Easing up on restrictions could include the expansion of social bubbles and numbers for social gatherings. Hanley said he is hoping summer can mean the gathering again of larger groups, outdoor events like picnics, farmers markets, festivals and camping trips.
“These are not changes for next week, or even next month. Even setting a date is difficult at this point, but these times are within reach,” Hanley said.
“As we progress over the next few months, we will continue to monitor COVID activity while holding frequent conversations with our provincial and territorial partners to discuss our next steps,” he said. “Once we can be confident that COVID risk is diminished and vaccine rates are sufficient, we can begin to open the doors to more travel throughout Canada and eventually beyond.”
Silver said right now there are no plans to introduce a vaccine passport.
“I know how many feel exhausted, maybe doubtful and unsure of what our next few months will look like. But if for a little while longer, we can muster the energy and continue to follow the safe six plus one, receive our vaccines, and take all necessary precautions, we continue to move closer to closing the door on COVID,” Hanley said.
Hanley said “Moderna appears effective against the current variants” but the rise of COVID-19 mutations continue to create uncertainty over how spread could be affected.
While vaccination continues, Hanley said they are continuing to monitor the spread of variants. So far, no cases of variants have been confirmed in the territory, but they have demonstrated higher transmission rates in British Columbia.
The mobile teams continue this week to Dawson City, Carcross, Pelly Crossing. Next week the teams will travel to Carmacks, Faro, Haines Junction, Mayo, Keno, Burwash Landing and Ross River.
The Yukon government has refused to provide a detailed breakdown of the vaccine uptake in each of the communities, but the average number outside of Whitehorse is 53 per cent.
Silver said the government will allow individual communities to release the detailed data in order to avoid “pitting one community against another as far as why people speculate as to why one community got less or to the other.”
The goal across the Yukon is getting to 75 per cent of adults vaccinated.
Last week the Whitehorse clinic opened for the general population above 18 years of age in Whitehorse. The website crashed from the increase in traffic and Hanley said the clinic has been immunizing more than 850 people each day. Spots are still available for booking and walk-ins will be accepted after March 10.
“Uptake has been fantastic so far,” Silver said.
Hanley and Deputy Chief Dr. Catherine Elliot received their first dose of Moderna on March 2.
As of March 4 there have been 11,801 first doses of Moderna had been given across the territory and 6,357 second doses had been administered.
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