Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the territory, with an exposure notice issued for flights from Vancouver to Whitehorse in addition to three locations in the capital.

“We have had two new cases, cases 75 and 76, plus three public notifications,” said Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, issuing an update on cases at a press conference on April 14.

“These two new cases are part of a family household cluster, linked to a family group that travelled in from out of territory,” Hanley said.

The cases have been confirmed as the first cases of P.1 variant COVID-19 in the territory.

“This is the variant that was originally associated with Brazil, but has appeared in many provinces now in Canada. We’re obviously concerned about P.1 coming to Yukon, but it is a variant and like all variants, the same public health measures work for variants that work for everyday COVID,” he said.

Case 75 travelled from Vancouver to Whitehorse on April 3, and tested positive for COVID-19 several days after arriving in the territory. The individual is now self-isolating while contact tracing takes place with all passengers seated near the person.

Hanley said right now more intensive lockdown measures — as seen in the South — are not yet necessary, but the territory does have a plan if transmission gets out of control. In the provinces, the variants have created a massive increase in cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

“We do have plans in place for what to do if things get worse. If we were to see hospitals and community spread, we may have to take additional steps,” he said. “Along with public health measures, vaccines remain our best way out of this pandemic.”

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious,” Hanely said.

The transmission rates of the variants prompted Hanley to recommend that visitors self-isolating in the Yukon with other household members should take more precautions.

“I recommend that household members should self-isolate with the travellers for the 14 days,” said Hanley, adding that household members should not be outside shopping and socializing during the quarantine period. If not possible, it is important that household members are extremely careful, do not eat together, share utensils, and stay distanced and wear masks.

Hanley said early evidence provides the Moderna vaccine protects against B.1.1.7., but there is less evidence for other variant strains such as P.1. Hanley said right now borders cannot be opened, because the variants could get out of control very quickly.

“Changes will be coming and we are planning as we speak,” said Hanley. “Our border measures are critically important at slowing the spread. But we are exploring some measures on how, when appropriate to do so, we could lift or amend the requirements.”

“I can’t stress enough how important it is now that Yukoners continue to follow our current public health measures,” he said.

Public exposure notices in Whitehorse have been issued for April 9:

Canada Post and Shoppers Drug Mart in Qwanlin Mall, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Superstore, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Walmart, from 5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

A public exposure notice in Whitehorse was issued for April 3:

Air North flight 4N538, Vancouver to Whitehorse, departure 1:35 p.m., arrival 3:59 p.m.

Those on the flight who report symptoms should get tested. The release from the government said precautionary tests are also available for those who have been on the flight and do not have symptoms.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is reminded to stay home, self-isolate, do the online self-assessment and arrange for testing by calling 867-393-3083 or by booking a test online.

Contact Haley Ritchie at