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'Long road ahead' in fight against COVID-19, says Yukon premier

According to numbers posted by the Yukon government on Monday, there have been eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory and six of those people have now recovered.

Health officials say they may lower threshold for testing in Yukon

At a news conference on Tuesday, Premier Sandy Silver told Yukoners that there is no immediate end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, and no plan to lift restrictions in the territory any time soon. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon officials say local restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 likely won't be lifted anytime soon, despite the slowing trickle of confirmed cases in the territory.

As of Monday, there were still eight confirmed cases in Yukon — the same number as last Wednesday. Two more of those people have recovered since last week, meaning that there are now just two active cases in the territory.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, chief medical officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said he's confident that there is still no community transmission of the coronavirus in Yukon. That means that all the confirmed cases are related to travel outside Yukon, or are close contacts of those who travelled.

Premier Sandy Silver, also speaking at Tuesday's news conference, thanked Yukoners for being vigilant and following public health orders, especially over the holiday weekend.

Silver also reminded Yukoners that there is no immediate end in sight, and no plan to lift restrictions any time soon.

"We can't do it until it's safe. And we're not there yet," Silver said.

"We still have a long road ahead of us in the fight against COVID-19."

Watch Tuesday's news conference here:

None of Yukon's cases of COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

All but one of the affected people are from Whitehorse. The other is from a rural community that officials won't identify.

As of Monday, 832 Yukoners had been tested for COVID-19 and results were still pending on 18 of those cases. Since the beginning of April, a little over 100 people have been tested.

Hanley acknowledged that the rate of testing in the territory has slowed in the past couple of weeks, though he said Yukon still has one of the highest per-capita rates of testing in the country.

He said part of the reason that testing has slowed since last month may be that fewer people are now travelling into the territory and therefore requiring testing. 

Hanley also explained Yukon's approach to testing right now, saying it's based on "vulnerabilities," as much as symptoms. He also said the territory is looking for signs of community transmission of the coronavirus, and that won't necessarily be revealed with more widespread testing right now.

"Our focus right now is on where does it matter most where COVID is occurring? And I can tell you those areas are rural Yukon, long-term care or continuing care [facilities], and certain other environments with vulnerable populations," he said.

"Sometimes if we test everyone with symptoms, it can lead to too much noise and not enough signal."

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