The Yukon government has introduced new health restrictions to combat the Omicron outbreak – and, yet again, has managed to anger the public in the process.
In a news release posted at 7 p.m. Friday, Premier Sandy Silver and Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health, announced the new policies.
“The Government of Yukon is strengthening public health measures to address the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the Yukon as a result of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” the release stated.
“The Yukon is experiencing unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm the territory’s health care system.
“Based on recommendations from the Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health, new temporary public health measures are being introduced to further limit contact between individuals and prevent further strain on public health systems.”
The new temporary measures include:
• limiting all private and public gatherings to two households up to a maximum of 10 people, including recreational team sports; group fitness; group recreation and leisure activities; and at bars and restaurants, which remain limited to six people per table.
• postponing all indoor organized events, including funerals and weddings;
• requiring casinos to stay closed; and
• requiring bars and restaurants to close no later than 10 p.m.
“All Yukoners are strongly encouraged to follow these new recommendations immediately. They will be enforced under the Civil Emergency Measures Act starting on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022,” says Silver’s and Elliott’s statement.
“We are in a critical period here in the territory as we brace for the impact other jurisdictions across Canada and the world are experiencing as a result of the Omicron variant,” said Silver.
“These new public health measures are necessary to limit the strain on our health care system and prevent it from being overwhelmed.
“Following public health recommendations, limiting close contacts and getting vaccinated are essential to protecting the health and safety of all Yukoners in this new phase of the pandemic.”
Elliott added, “We understand that the considerable impacts of Omicron are taking their toll on many Yukoners and putting a serious risk of strain on our health care system.
“These new measures are necessary to reduce the number of people who will become seriously ill and are designed to reduce COVID risk while maintaining health and wellbeing, to the greatest extent possible.
“In addition to following these new temporary measures, now is the time to get up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster dose for adults.”
On Friday afternoon, the territory’s active count was 459, with 67 new cases reported.
The new measures and the timing of the announcement enraged a fair number of people on social media – including those on the government’s own Facebook page.
Several commented on the curious timing of the release.
“Did you guys release this on a Friday after 5 p.m.? Come on, we all know that’s a greasy way to bury news you don’t want to share, but this announcement needed more attention. Cynical at best,” stated Alex McKay.
“Another press release introducing restrictions on Friday after hours,” Chris and Jody Klassen wrote on the page.
“Spineless. As well citing hospitalization without ever providing data on hospitalization. Sorry, but we’re adults here.
“Face the public and tell us of new restrictions in a live update. AND give us data that all other jurisdictions provide on a daily basis.”
A Twitter user commented on the governent’s account.
“Nothing like announcing this at 7 p.m. on a Friday... if only there was a weekly event where you could announce things like this, and giving up on exposure notices for school, where people could ask questions?”
Others commented on the confusing nature of the restrictions.
“Sooo no more than 10 people between two house holds for all indoor gatherings?” wrote Sarah Dawn Thompson.
“Umm, how does that make sense with daycares when we are dealing with MULTIPLE households? Ever hear of the multiplier effect?
“Each of those children and workers have parents, siblings and children who also have their own bubbles. It’s a never ending cycle... children stay home from daycare = we don’t get paid to provide for our families or children come in sick (because they always have colds/runny noses) and potentially spread covid as they can’t be vaccinated yet?
“I hope we can get some sort of support here in the Early Learning Childcare centres as I among others feel extremely at risk and left out of the conversation,” Thompson added.
“Everyday I go to work I feel like I’m going to catch it from comforting a crying child and bring it home to my family.”
“I need some clarification on this,” said Heather Sweeney.
“I run a small business teaching yoga, and we follow all of the current guidelines. Am I completely shut down now because there will be more than 2 households in the room? This wording is very confusing.
“I’ve left messages in many places, but the offices were all closed by the time this was posted. I need to plan ahead and communicate with my clients. Who can I talk to for urgent clarification?” asked Sweeney.
NDP Leader Kate White was also unimpressed with the Friday evening timing of the announcement.
“People are trying to figure out what the government is doing,” she told the Star this morning.
“I’ve been constantly criticizing the government over its communication. We’ve had two examples in the last week. The new restrictions, and the failure to announce the government was ending exposure notices for schools at the COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. Instead, the government sent out an email on Wednesday evening,” she noted.
The Yukon Party also weighed in on the timing of the announcement early this afternoon.
“We have heard from a variety of groups and individuals over the weekend that were dissatisfied with the announcement of new public health measures being made on a Friday evening at 6:53 p.m. by press release without sufficient explanation,” the party said.
“Like many Yukoners, we fail to understand why the Yukon government is imposing mandatory closing times of 10 p.m. for bars and restaurants when these establishments are already subject to tight restrictions and a vaccine mandate.
“Further, it appears that the new restrictions effectively cancel all youth team sports, by imposing a requirement that any gatherings are limited to two households,” the party added.
“Ultimately, we believe that these recommendations need to be better communicated, and that this poor communication only serves to undermine the effectiveness of the measures themselves.”
The party said it continues to ask for “the public release of all recommendations, information, and data by the chief medical officer of health to better inform Yukoners of the decisions made by this Liberal government.
“These announcements should have happened in a public way where people and the media could ask questions,” said the official Opposition.
This morning, the Star asked the government to explain the timing of Friday evening’s announcement. No response was provided.