The Yukon has unveiled a four-stage plan for relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.
“The social and economic hardships of this pandemic are undeniable,” says a report released last Friday afternoon.
“We recognize the strain that this has placed on our mental health, personal well-being, our families, our communities, our businesses and our way of life in the Yukon.”
The Yukon government’s 44-page plan is called A Path Forward.
It divides the Yukon’s stages of relaxing restrictions into four phases.
Up until last Friday, the Yukon was in “phase zero” of reopening, reporters were told. The fourth and final phase will take place after a
vaccine for COVID-19 is available.
The plan says that in the event that a vaccine does not become available, an alternative public health approach would be required.
The first phase was launched by the Yukon government last Friday and involves the gradual loosening of public health measures affecting businesses, services, recreation and entertainment.
There is a list of criteria required before moving into phase two.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer, said last Friday the transition into phase two could take between weeks and months. It
depends on the success of the first phase, combined with the state of the pandemic outside the territory.
To move into phase two, the Yukon needs to maintain testing turnaround time and see a continued downward trend of the pandemic in Canada with a focus on B.C., Alaska, Alberta and the N.W.T.
There must also be adequate supply of personal protective equipment, low to no COVID-19 cases in hospitals and a limited number of imported cases and case clusters.
Hanley said these criteria will be used to gauge the safety of moving forward, but are not set in stone.
“It’s difficult to be very precise about this,” Hanley said.
“It could be different combinations of these factors that would lead us to hold tight, to stay where we are until we get more stability, more
If a major outbreak occurs in a nearby province, for example, Hanley said his office would look at that situation carefully to assess whether it should affect reopening in the Yukon.
He added that there is some expectation that more COVID-19 cases will appear in the territory, and there need to be adequate public health measures to treat new clusters.
Phase two, or the recovery phase, will include the expansion of permitted personal care, health care and recreation services. Outdoor
gatherings of 50 people or fewer may be permitted, as well as overnight summer camps for children.
There will also be more exceptions allowed for non-essential travellers into the territory. Travel directions within the territory will also be eased through phases one and two.
Last Friday, Premier Sandy Silver said Yukoners are expected to use their best judgment before travelling into rural communities.
“We ask Yukoners to move around a bit more but we’re not going to … throw the door wide open,” Silver said.
“It’s not a time to hang out on Main Street in those communities if you’re not from there.”
In phase two, the chief medical officer will begin to assess the opening of elementary and secondary schools.
This consideration will continue into phase three, and will be done in collaboration with the Department of Education.
The criteria required to enter phase three, or the “new normal,” are nearly identical to the criteria for moving into phase two, and require
continued public health capacity and low number of cases.
Phase three will involve the gradual lift of border controls and no size restrictions for gatherings, as long as there is capacity for physical
Most businesses and services will be fully operational with more relaxed public health measures in place during phase three.
The Yukon will remain in phase three until a vaccine, or an alternative public health measure, is available.
There are several restrictions that may be relaxed in phases one, two or three according to Hanley.
These include the reopening of bars, dental care, religious services, funerals and visitation at hospitals and long-term care facilities.
It’s possible that if an outbreak occurs, the Yukon would move backward through the phases and more restrictions would be implemented.
Hanley noted last Friday that it’s a two-way street, but said it’s unlikely the Yukon will have to reimplement any restrictions.
The plan notes that the Yukon has among the lowest rate of COVID-19 infection in Canada, with only one per cent of people tested found to have the disease.
Two per cent of the Yukon’s population was tested for COVID-19.
The plan also lists the 17 funding initiatives launched by the Yukon government during the pandemic, with a total estimated price tag of
The most costly of these is the $10-million Yukon business relief program; $6.2 million sick-leave provision rebate; and $3.5 million event reimbursement program.