Larger gatherings coming soon, say Yukon officials

Yukon health officials said Wednesday that some pandemic restrictions around the size of gatherings will be eased soon, but they did not give a date.

More than 76 per cent of eligible adults in territory have had at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley held a news conference on COVID-19 in the territory on Wednesday morning. (Government of Yukon)

Yukon's top doctor hinted at more pandemic restrictions to be eased soon, in particular, those limiting the size of social  gatherings.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley said at a news conference on Wednesday that he's made recommendations to the government to allow for larger gatherings, both indoors and out.

"We are in a good place, and we can be realistically optimistic about our summer ahead," Hanley said.

Premier Sandy Silver said the change would allow for indoor gatherings of up to 20 people (up from the current maximum of ten) and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people (up from the current 50).

Officials are also looking at allowing organized events for up to 200 people — such as weddings, funerals, or cultural events — provided the venue has enough space for proper physical distancing. Right now, organized events for up to 100 people are allowed.

Silver said the recommendations are still under review, and no date has been set for any changes.

"As we move to a two-vaccine summer, we need to remember that reopening is a process of slowly and carefully peeling away restrictions, like layers of onion skin," Hanley said.

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Declarations of vaccine status

Silver and Hanley also spoke on Wednesday morning about some restrictions that will be eased starting next week — including the self-isolation requirement for people arriving in the territory.

As of May 25, anybody who can prove they've had both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine, and that at least two weeks have passed since their second shot, won't have to isolate on entering Yukon.

But officials said on Wednesday — less than a week before the new rule comes into effect — that they're still working out the details of how to verify people's vaccination status, while also protecting their privacy.

Those arriving in Yukon will have to sign a declaration form about their vaccination status, and also give consent for officials to verify that declaration, Silver said.  

"This is a new initiative that we are leading. We are working with our partners across the country to sort out the details of what verification will look like," Silver said.

"We're not there yet."

Officials said the change is intended to primarily benefit vaccinated Yukoners. Hanley said only about three per cent of Canadians have had both shots so far (compared to 67 per cent of eligible Yukoners).

"This is primarily an initiative for Yukoners. Yukoners have nothing to worry about, there will be the declaration process and we do have that ability to verify immediately," Hanley said.

"Yukoners do not need to worry that they'll be having to self-isolate while we figure this out." 

Verifying the vaccination status of B.C. residents will also be more straightforward because the two jurisdictions are already closely linked, Hanley said.

Nobody will be compelled to give consent for their vaccination status to be verified, Hanley said. But failing to do so means they will be legally required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

As of Wednesday, the territory had no active cases of COVID-19.


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