Yukon high school students will return to full-time classes next month, and officials are optimistic that travel restrictions could be lifted this spring.
These announcements were made during this morning’s COVID-19 briefing.
“As Dr. Hanley has said, the vaccine is our pathway out of this pandemic. The rate of uptake is very promising, and we feel very comfortable announcing some changes that we can look forward to as spring approaches,” Premier Sandy Silver said.
Silver said planning and organization is underway to bring Whitehorse students in Grades 10 to 12 back to classes full-time next month.
The increase of social bubbles is also planned to coincide with the increasing vaccination rate. There are also plans to open the border to travel bubbles with other jurisdictions.
“If the current trends continue, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to look at travel bubbles in May and June,” Silver said.
“What we are able to adjust in the coming weeks and months will be depending upon things continuing on the same trajectory we have been seeing recently, with case counts going down across the country, and vaccination rates increasing, both here in the territory and in neighbouring jurisdictions.”
As of Monday, 15,572 Yukoners had received their first dose of the vaccine.
Once enough Yukoners are vaccinated, a more relaxed version of the current restrictions will be introduced.
The Yukon government announced new benchmarks for reopening in A Path Forward: Next Steps, published on March 5.
A Path Forward splits the immediate future into two steps.
The document outlines several “indicator thresholds” that will allow measures to lift, assuming local case counts are low.
Before the Yukon can reopen the border to another jurisdiction, the interested jurisdiction should ideally have a low active case rate of less than 10 per 100,000 people.
Physical distancing, masks and social bubbles will be required until vaccines are found to be effective against transmission of COVID-19 and its many variants.
All of the above relaxations require a “high overall vaccination rate for the entire Yukon population.”
It’s undecided how many Yukoners equate a “high overall rate,” Premier Sandy Silver said on March 8. Earlier in the pandemic, the commonly cited metric for herd immunity was 75 per cent.
“We really need Yukoners to get vaccinated, so the best thing that we can do right now is to make sure that we get that number up as high as possible,” Silver said.
The premier added that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the territory’s ability to reopen, and said more information should be available within a couple of weeks.
A Path Forward explains that the government’s initial multi-step document, published last May, envisioned a “simple transition” out of restrictions once a vaccine arrived.
“However, we find ourselves in very different circumstances than imagined just 10 months ago,” it says.
“The second wave that was anticipated by public health officials has occurred, and many provinces imposed extreme public health measures in response…. Despite the fact that case counts are now stabilizing, our risk level today continues to remain higher than during the first wave.”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org