The Yukon could enter Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan — a phase officials have dubbed “the new normal” — as soon as Aug. 1 if the current phase continues to go smoothly.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer of health, said during a July 8 COVID-19 update that he has been in discussions with Premier Sandy Silver on entering Phase 3, with details on what exactly that would look like to come in two weeks should the plan proceed.
Phase 3, he said, would be the “new normal,” and one that Yukoners would be living under until a COVID-19 vaccine is released.
He noted that it’s been a week since the territory entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan, with one of the largest shifts being the opening of a “travel bubble” with British Columbia, and said that while it’s early, “so far, so good.”
Community services minister John Streicker, at the same update, said that about 250 British Columbia residents had entered the Yukon on July 1 under the new bubble, which allows for Yukoners and British Columbians to move back and forth without needing to self-isolate upon entry or return, with about another hundred entering last weekend.
Both Streicker and Hanley acknowledged concerns about Outside vehicles, particularly those with American licence plates, being seen in the territory.
Hanley said that while officials are continuing to work “on keeping American travellers on the straight and narrow, a brief encounter with them in a grocery store or at gas station is unlikely to lead to transmissions of COVID.”
“After thousands coming through, we have not seen COVID transmission from these travellers,” he said.
Streicker explained that people with Alaskan plates aren’t necessarily in violation of any COVID-19 restrictions or orders and may be in the territory providing an essential service, and that Whitehorse city bylaw officers had been helping with keeping tabs on Outside plates. He also asked that Yukoners travelling within the territory remain respectful of community concerns and wishes and continue to adhere to physical distancing recommendations.
Not all stores and restaurants are open in all communities, he said, and travellers should call ahead and be prepared to be self-sufficient if needed.
Hanley and Streicker also highlighted several developments not related to travel.
Hanley said a smaller respiratory assessment centre had opened in Whitehorse Monday in anticipation of an increase in demand for testing with borders reopening and with influenza season around the corner. The centre, located at 49A Waterfront Pl., will be performing tests via referral Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Whitehorse General Hospital has also changed its visiting policy, with all patients now allowed one designated and consistent visitor. While travel to British Columbia can now be done without self-isolating upon return, Hanley said travelling to the province was still considered higher-risk and could result in elective surgeries being postponed, if patients or members of their households have travelled to B.C. and are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Meanwhile, Streicker reminded Yukoners about government support programs available for businesses and individuals struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19, announcing that the government was extending its residential rent support program into September. Renters who have lost at least 30 per cent of their income due to the pandemic are eligible for the program.
Streicker also announced a fourth charge under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, saying that two Canadians had been found to be not in compliance with their travel declaration, ticketed and required to leave the Yukon.
The two had no COVID-19 symptoms during either their entry to or exit of the Yukon, according to Streicker.
He said that the Yukon will continue to maintain a presence on entry points into the territory, including the Whitehorse airport, into the fall.
The Yukon has not had a new COVID-19 case since April 20, with the last of 11 people infected by the coronavirus having recovered May 1.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com