Premier Sandy Silver and Dr. Brendan Hanley, chief medical officer of health, speak at a COVID-19 related press conference in Whitehorse on May 8. The government released a plan for the staggered reopening of the territory at a press conference on May 15, saying details — like dates — are still to come. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon government announces plan to reopen

The plan does not include hard dates, but outlines the order of and criteria for reopening

The Yukon government has rolled out its multi-stage plan to reopening the territory, and it starts with letting some restaurants and personal service businesses soon get back to work.

Premier Sandy Silver and the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley presented the plan at the May 15 COVID-19 update.

Silver went over the stages. He said the territory is just exiting the “response” stage to the pandemic and is now entering the “restart” phase.

“It doesn’t all start today, but today we can start,” Silver said.

The plan has two additional phases called “recovery” and “new normal” respectively.

Silver warned that the pathway through phases is a two-way street, and some restrictions may be reintroduced as necessary. He said there is an established set of criteria to meet to progress through stages.

The premier explained that the territory is looking to open up some restaurants and personal services, but that does not mean every closed business will be able to open yet — some will have to stay closed.

Restaurants and personal services that were ordered closed will need to come up with a pandemic operational plan that needs to be approved by officials before the business can open.

Silver clarified that a business that voluntarily closed still needs a plan to reopen, but it does not need to be approved in advance.

Restaurants and personal services will be required to operate under the current health orders and recommendations, like social distancing.

Hanley explained that in order to ease restrictions in some areas, others will have to remain tight. He gave the example of bars, which are still considered too much of a risk to reopen at this time.

“It’s about balance,” Hanley said.

He added that hair salons and restaurants will not be open in the coming days but in the “very near future.”

Hanley is also encouraging people to start socializing more and told Yukoners they could pick another household to interact with without social distancing. He explained this means a household can expand its bubble to include five people from another household. Both household have to agree to pick each other, and both households are still asked to practice social distancing around others.

As of 3 p.m. on May 15, a total of 1,124 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the Yukon. Eleven tests are pending, 11 people tested positive and are now recovered, and 1,102 people have tested negative for COVID-19.

A link to the Yukon government’s full plan for reopening can be found here.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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