Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

NEW SAFETY MEASURES ANNOUNCED – Dr. Brendan Hanley, centre, speaks at the press conference held Sunday evening at the Yukon Government Main Administration Building. He was flanked by Dr. Catherine Elliott and Premier Sandy Silver.

Travel curtailments, business closures unveiled

Business closures and travel restrictions are among the most recent measures taken by the Yukon’s chief medical officer to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Yukon.

By Gabrielle Plonka on March 23, 2020

Business closures and travel restrictions are among the most recent measures taken by the Yukon’s chief medical officer to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Yukon.

“I know there are those who might say we are going too far, there are others who might say this is not far enough,” Dr. Brendan Hanley told a news conference Sunday evening in Whitehorse.

“As always, we try to balance our measures against the risk and be prepared to augment our measures according to our measurement of the risk.”

Hanley communicated the new protection measures alongside Premier Sandy Silver. He noted the actions were planned in advance, and are not in response or relation to the discovery of the Yukon’s first two cases of COVID-19 (see story below).

The new measures will mainly affect local businesses and travellers. 

The Yukon’s restaurants must immediately reduce seating capacity to 50 per cent and seat patrons two metres apart.

Starting this Thursday, restaurants should only open for take-out and delivery service. 

The territory’s bars were ordered to close until further notice as of Sunday night.

All personal service establishments must close by the end of Wednesday. These include hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and massage therapists.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are now banned. Smaller gatherings should ensure space of two metres between people.

Yukoners should not attend gatherings of any size if they have flu-like symptoms, underlying health conditions, work in health care or other essential services, or are over 65 years of age.

Two weeks of self-isolation are now required of all travellers returning to the Yukon, including travellers returning from provinces, other territories and Alaska, by air and by road. 

To self-isolate safely, Yukoners should return to their place of residence, assuming they do not share a bathroom.

Those who are unable to safely self-isolate should email covid19info@gov.yk.ca for information and advice. 

Yukoners who have returned from travel within Canada in the past week should also self-isolate if possible, but it is not a requirement, Hanley clarified.

He strongly advises the suspension of all non-essential travel Outside and to rural communities.

All Yukoners who planned to return home in the next 30 days are advised to return now. 

The declaration of a public health emergency gives Hanley the power to enforce these new measures, but exact processes of enforcement have not been decided yet.

“It is important … for our territory to first lay down the law, lay down the decrees, even before all the mechanisms are put in place,” Hanley said. 

“Such is the speed of this epidemic and such is the need to react.”

Silver said federal officials will meet on Tuesday to discuss appropriate measures for enforcement.

He called the announcement of two confirmed cases “troubling, but not unexpected,” and urged Yukoners to continue social distancing and working from home.

Silver said increased support for businesses and renters is imminent, but did not elaborate on what that will entail.

He added that Yukoners should shop locally and responsibly, without hoarding. 

“It is on us, each and every one of us as Yukoners, to take this situation seriously,” Silver said.

Hanley recommended that Yukoners should continue to enjoy the outdoors as a means of exercise, activity, hunting and trapping but not for socialization. While outside with others, it’s important to maintain a two-metre distance.

He added that he has received hundreds of messages in the past several days and has done his best to read them all.

“I recognize the anxiety, even the fear, but this is containable and we can do this … by enduring the hardships that are ahead of us,” he said.

The Yukon’s chief medical officers are already planning for next measures, and more updates will be announced as the situation progresses.

Hanley said the Yukon’s testing rates are higher than those of any jurisdiction in the country, and the backlog in test results is being resolved.

The number of tests will be updated on yukon.ca three times a week. Aggressive testing is key to fighting the virus, Hanley said.

Restrictions at the Yukon-Alaska border were also put in place Friday and will continue over the next 30 days.

Essential supply chains and movement of goods and workers will not be impacted, including trucking of food, fuel and life-saving medicines. Workers in health care, emergency response and mining will be able to cross the border.

Other examples of essential travel permitted across the border include:

• Canadian residents living in Yukon and returning to Canada;

• U.S. citizens seeking medical care; veterinarian care for pets; automobile repair; access to groceries and medicine;

• U.S. citizens returning to work in Canada or to conduct required stewardship to owned property in Canada; and

• ground medical transportation.

The Northwest Territories has closed its borders in the face of the first case of confirmed COVID-19 there.

See letters, commentaries.

Comments (18)

Up 14 Down 13

Tyler Bullet on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:13 am

My concern is that the people making the decisions aren't the ones bearing the cost. It's easy to say that health is more important than wealth if it helps your health, but hurts someone else's wealth.

Up 19 Down 5

JoseBloviator on Mar 25, 2020 at 11:53 pm

Josee Wails:

(Global News) Mar. 13-2020 - Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to travel between provinces and territories, and to leave and enter Canada as they wish.

These rights – considered “democratic” rights – are not subject to the Charter’s notwithstanding clause, meaning the government cannot pass legislation or regulations that limit Canadians’ freedom of mobility.

However, under extraordinary circumstances, such as an epidemic or matters of significant national importance, the federal government can use its emergency powers to impose restrictions that would otherwise be unjustified, University of Ottawa law professor Martha Jackman says.

“If the federal, provincial or territorial governments were to impose travel restrictions… it would absolutely raise mobility rights concerns."
“But obviously if those (restrictions) were put in place for public health concerns, it’s quite likely they’d be found reasonable by the courts.”

Research, my son.

Up 9 Down 26

U. C. Little on Mar 25, 2020 at 7:23 am

And in the end Chicken Little looked to the sky... To see that it was, indeed, not falling...

Up 18 Down 37

Josey Wales on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Listened to our PM speak to the peasants today, reminded me more of a threat to a enemy than a address to the nation.
....hence, from his daddies favourite document.

From the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms...
Rights and freedoms in Canada
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights
and freedoms set out in it to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as
can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Mobility of citizens
6. (1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
Rights to move and gain livelihood
(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right
(a) to move and take up residence in any province; and
(b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province

So I get folks freaking out, I understand the power reaching from bureaucrats and the nobility RULING them but I ask again...
Who exactly canceled the CCoR&F ? Nobody interested?
Everyone just so eager to follow the state and its many many actors...blows my mind.

Seems with a mere regional health minister our freedoms and livelihoods are gone...just like that.
And so so many think I am nuts, need a tinfoil hat etc.
To encourage thoughtful discourse please explain clearly how wrong I am.
Facts please, not emotional bloviating enough hyperbole in the news

Up 41 Down 4

Anie on Mar 24, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Not a fan of Calgary's Mayor Neshi, but he nailed it when he told all residents to behave as if you have the virus, and you don't want to give it to anyone. That is the best instruction I've heard from any politician.

Up 32 Down 2

Jayne W on Mar 24, 2020 at 10:07 am

Time to also block off the play structures. Sad but important measure to take as well. Other provinces are doing this, and we want to stay ahead of the game.

Up 32 Down 10

Shelly Stevens on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:01 am

I would like to know why mining is considered an essential service. The shift change people coming in on the plane are from various locations outside.

Up 39 Down 11

Bryan Spray on Mar 24, 2020 at 8:18 am

it is The Yukon, not Yukon.

Up 24 Down 11

jc on Mar 24, 2020 at 7:53 am

It's not enough. People are not self isolating after travel back to the Yukon, people that are coming back to Yukon from all parts of the world. People also are not staying home, because Yukon Medical Officer only recommends it, it is NOT required. Yukon...wake up...you do not have enough ventilators to cope with this out break...and your small communities with only nursing stations are sunk...yet your local photographers are out and about taking door portraits?? Glad you people up north are taking this seriously...

Up 21 Down 10

Matthew on Mar 24, 2020 at 7:09 am

Also, if there is such a huge backlog of test results, how did the 2 infected get theirs back in 3... days... hmmm

Up 11 Down 23

Matthew on Mar 24, 2020 at 7:07 am

Sad how I haven't heard the flight they came in on JC have you? Remember people, while the gov employees are eating all organic foods the foods sprayed with toxic, carcinogenic chemicals are safe for us to eat right? LOL! Seems to me they have NO idea on what's safe for us or not...

Up 27 Down 7

Roy James on Mar 24, 2020 at 5:44 am

How is Vic Gold complying with the maximum allowable gathering size of 5? I can't imagine they are able to meet this requirement at their camp kitchen.

Up 24 Down 6

oh the gift of greed on Mar 23, 2020 at 10:53 pm

..."we're still charging a carbon tax, electronic levy, and a tire surcharge. "
Just a nice way to say "f*** u but keep providing for us" to the industry.

Up 31 Down 1

Miles Epanhauser on Mar 23, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Think all passengers should have been phoned or all made aware using the media and those seated close to the couple phoned.

Up 26 Down 5

Wendy on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:15 pm

"Two weeks of self-isolation are now required of all travellers returning to the Yukon, including travellers returning from provinces, other territories and Alaska, by air and by road".

"Yukoners who have returned from travel within Canada in the past week should also self-isolate if possible, but it is not a requirement, Hanley clarified".

These 2 statements are contradictory. Which is it?

Up 15 Down 17

Max Mack on Mar 23, 2020 at 5:10 pm

These drastic measures may put many businesses out of commission, not to mention that many thousands of workers in the service sector will be affected by loss of income and job uncertainty. More drastic measures on the way, if I read the article correctly. Oh, joy.

Add to this the sense of panic and helplessness created in the populace by these and earlier measures, diminished health outcomes for many who are now afraid to go to their doctor or the hospital or do not have loved ones to help them, mental agony due to social isolation, extreme duress caused by financial hardship, and the inevitable suicides and self-harm from all of the foregoing. Inevitably, some people will not go for testing even when they suspect they have COVID because they fear the resulting disruption of their lives more than they fear being sick.

Many experts in many fields question the sanity of such drastic measures. Where are the mass casualties? Why aren't journalists holding Hanley's and Silver's feet to the fire?

Up 15 Down 3

lol on Mar 23, 2020 at 5:04 pm

@ JC
Nope, they aren't informing anyone on that flight or even saying when it was.

Up 71 Down 11

JC on Mar 23, 2020 at 4:39 pm

I take it then, that all the passengers and flight crew that were on the flight with the two who tested positive for Covid19 are also in home quarantine?

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