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No new or active cases of COVID-19 in Yukon, but restrictions stay in place

Yukon officials said Tuesday there were still no new active cases of COVID-19 in Yukon, but said they're still looking into how to ease restrictions.

Territory has had no active cases of COVID-19 since last week, all 11 affected people recovered

Brendan Hanley, Yukon's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Tuesday that more than 1,000 Yukoners have been tested so far, and it's been almost three weeks since the last confirmed case.  (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

Yukon officials are still cautioning against a premature easing of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the territory's "enviable situation" in keeping the disease's spread under control.

As of Tuesday, there were no active cases of COVID-19 in Yukon. Officials confirmed last week that all 11 cases were considered recovered.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said at a news conference on Tuesday that more than 1,000 Yukoners have been tested so far, and it's been almost three weeks since the last confirmed case. 

"To see that number stabilize is a reaffirmation so far that we're doing the right thing," Hanley said.

Still, he said the "fickle and dangerous character" of the novel coronavirus requires caution in easing any public health orders.

"We need to take small steps, watch what happens, and if all stays OK, take another small step," he said.

"We are in an enviable situation and we want to stay here."

Missed the news conference? Watch it here:

Hanley also talked about how officials have modelled different scenarios, to understand the effectiveness of public health restrictions. He said they ran estimates of what the infection curve would have looked like without restrictions.

One case arriving in Yukon in March could have resulted in 2,500 cases by May 1, he said, with 150 of those needing hospitalization. A group of 10 infected people arriving in Yukon from an event could have led to 7,000 infected people by May 1, and 1,000 hospitalizations, he said.

"Needless to say our health system could be easily overwhelmed even in the first scenario, not to mention the second," he said. 

'Nobody wants a false start'

Premier Sandy Silver, also speaking at Tuesday's news conference, thanked Yukoners for following the existing public health orders.

"I believe that these measures are clearly working," Silver said.

He referred to a letter recently sent to organizers of the Arctic Winter Games, that told of someone who had planned to attend the games in Whitehorse in March, before the event was cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. That person later became sick with COVID-19, Silver relayed, during the time when the games would have been held.

Silver also didn't offer any new details about reopening the Yukon economy or lifting restrictions.

He acknowledged that local businesses are taking a big hit, but said it's better to not act too soon and risk a more serious outbreak later, requiring more serious measures.

"We cannot just hit a switch and return to normal," he said.

"Nobody wants a false start."

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