OHS Canada Magazine

Yukon aiming to lift COVID-19 state of emergency in August

'The more people who get vaccinated, the safer this territory will be'


WHITEHORSE — Yukon is expanding the rules for gatherings under COVID-19 restrictions with more than three-quarters of eligible residents fully vaccinated, although health officials warn the territory’s worst outbreak isn’t over.

Premier Sandy Silver and chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said the territory is returning to gathering sizes previously allowed on May 25 of up to 200 people, as long as masks are worn indoors, and other health protocols are followed.

Hanley is recommending that fully vaccinated people can have personal gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors, but the unvaccinated are encouraged to stick with their “safe six” because they are at significantly higher risk.

“We have to recognize people who are vaccinated can gather more safely than people who are not,” Hanley said during a joint press conference Wednesday.

He encouraged daycares to return to full capacity beginning Monday now that cases associated with child-care centres in Whitehorse are under control and most have recovered.

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Yukon is six weeks into an outbreak that has primarily affected the unvaccinated, with 86 per cent of cases since June 1 involving people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, Hanley said.

Among the four people who have died in the current wave, three were unvaccinated. A total of six fatalities have been attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in the territory.

There were 93 active cases as of Tuesday, although Hanley said new daily cases have dropped from a peak of more than 20 to “just a few.”

Three people are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, Hanley said.

If progress continues on stabilizing the situation, Silver said officials are aiming to lift the state of emergency next month.

“Our daily case count has been decreasing, our vaccine uptake rates are increasing, that is exactly what we need to see. If this trend continues, we will be lifting the state of emergency next month,” Silver said.

“This will mean all restrictions introduced under the Civil Emergency Measures Act in response to COVID-19 will be lifted and we can focus our efforts on recovery.”

Hanley said the recovery effort won’t require new cases to drop to zero, but the health-care system must be in a position to handle possible new surges.

The territory is now aiming for a 95 per cent vaccination rate, which Hanley admitted was “an aspirational goal,” but one that would keep a huge number of people safe.

As of Monday, 85 per cent of eligible Yukoners had received their first vaccination and 77 per cent have had their second shot.

Youth were quickly catching up, Silver said, with 71 per cent of those ages 12 to 17 receiving their first dose, while 53 per cent were fully vaccinated.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the safer this territory will be,” he said.

By Amy Smart in Vancouver