Starting on Nov. 30, vaccinations will be mandatory for Yukon government employees and anyone visiting sports facilities, restaurants and other non-essential services.
Premier Sandy Silver and acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott made the announcement at a COVID-19 press conference on Oct. 15.
“I know that vaccination is a choice. For the first time there will be consequences for choosing not to be vaccinated. As people seek these non-essential services, they will find that they are not able to do so unless they are vaccinated,” said Elliott.
“We only need to look south — to Northern B.C. — to see what can occur when case counts rise rapidly and the health care system is strained. We only need to look east – to Northwest Territories – to see how one event with a great deal of spread can feed into unvaccinated populations around the territory with devastating effects,” she said.
Silver said he was unable to provide details on how enforcement will take place, but the new measures will be backed by the Public Health and Safety Act, rather than the Civil Emergency Measures Act, and enforceable by the RCMP.
Yukoners will be required to prove double vaccination in order to frequent non-essential establishments such as bars and restaurants or to attend theatre or concerts.
Gyms, dance lessons, recreational sports leagues and other fitness facilities will also bar non-vaccinated people from entry.
Essential services, including banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, libraries and hospitals will remain accessible to the public regardless of vaccine status.
It is unclear whether staff at non-essential businesses will also need to be vaccinated. Silver said more details will be expected in the coming weeks.
“Right now, it’s about announcing, forecasting and preparing,” he said. “We will be coming out with a lot more information about the specifics about the legislation and specifics about how we’re going to work with the private sector, public sector and NGOs.”
Silver said the recent uptick of cases, combined with the increasing issue of the Delta variant and stagnating rates of vaccination, justified the new measures.
“These measures align with steps being taken in other jurisdictions across the country to increase vaccination rates and combat the Delta variant wave that continues to spread throughout Canada,” he said. “We absolutely recognize that these measures may pose hardships for some and bring relief to others. My sincere hope is that this will prompt vaccine-hesitant Yukoners to roll up their sleeves.”
Public service will need to prove vaccination
Silver also announced that starting Nov. 30 all public servants, and employees of facilities funded by the government, will need to be fully vaccinated in order to continue working.
Mandatory vaccination will include government workers, teachers and staff in hospitals, long-term care homes, medical clinics and allied-health professionals such as occupational therapists, lab techs and audiologists.
The mandate will also apply to facilities like the Whitehorse jail, shelters and group homes.
Elliott suggested the measures are being put in place both to increase vaccination numbers and to protect those who cannot choose to seek care elsewhere.
“Those in long-term care facilities, for example, may not have chosen to be in care and they have little choice over who provides the care,” she said. “People who work with them should be vaccinated in order to ensure that infections and breakthrough illness in those settings do not result in higher morbidity and mortality amongst the elderly and those at risk.”
The new mandates will come into effect in around six weeks’ time, allowing unvaccinated individuals to begin the process of getting their shots.
Earlier this week Elliott reminded Yukoners that wearing masks indoors continues to be strongly recommended.
She also said that people who are not fully vaccinated are recommended to avoid non-essential services for 10 days after travel outside of the Yukon. She also said gathering size limits should be implemented; including social gatherings should be limited to 20 people indoors if everyone is fully vaccinated, or a maximum of six if not fully vaccinated.
She’s also suggested schools should cancel all Outside trips until January in order to avoid the fourth wave in other jurisdictions.
Starting Oct. 18, the vaccine clinic in Whitehorse will be open five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays with an extension until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. Vaccines are also available in all Yukon communities by contacting the local health centre.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org