The Yukon’s state of emergency over the latest COVID-19 wave will remain in effect for an undetermined length of time, although some minor loosening of health restrictions is coming this weekend.
At this morning’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Premier Sandy Silver would not provide a definitive answer as to whether the emergency declaration could be lifted by Christmas or New Year’s.
“I’m not going to speculate on that,” he said. “There are questions and much anticipation about the days and weeks ahead.”
He announced that beginning on Saturday, vaccine passports will no longer be required for faith-based services and personal services, such as hair salons.
There will be new regulations on gathering sizes as well. Indoor gatherings can operate at 50-per-cent capacity, with masks still required, while outdoor gatherings face no restrictions.
If you are 18 years of age and under, you will not have to show the vaccine passports to engage in recreation and sports activities. Masks will still be required.
Silver said the restrictions were being relaxed due to an “encouraging decrease in daily case counts and active cases.
“Yukon, you have been diligent,” he said. “It’s been very encouraging. We need to do everything we can to stop COVID.”
Dr. Catherine Elliott, the acting chief medical officer of health, has returned from a two-week absence. She said there are currently 61 active cases (down from 69 Monday afternoon) and two hospitalizations. One person has been transferred to a southern hospital.
She said the reduction in cases showed the effectiveness of the “circuit-breaker” health regulations introduced with the state of emergency.
Elliott also touched on the Omicron variant of COVID-19, just discovered within the last week or so. She said there have been no cases in the Yukon as yet, although it will “inevitably” turn up. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and B.C. have reported cases of the new variant.
“We do expect to see it here at some point,” Elliott said. “It is not here now. We have time to prepare and stall its inevitable introduction here.
“It’s not clear how transmissible it is – looks like more than the previous variants,” she added. “Vaccines have been safe and effective against all variants to date.”
Silver and Elliott stressed other health measures, particularly mandatory masking, will continue.
Elliott emphasized the importance of mask-wearing, but she seemed to be unaware of the latest advice on mask-wearing from Public Health Canada.
In a report published last month, and reported on by major media outlets such as CTV, the organization stated it has changed its advice on cloth masks, which have now been deemed to be less effective than medical and N-95 masks.
The updated guidance also recommends medical masks or respirators for people “who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19” and those at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation,” as well as general public use.
Respirators (such as N-95 masks) have always been considered the highest level of mask protection but were not recommended for general public use due to potential shortages. The Public Health Agency said in its statement that’s no longer true.