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Yukon to drop self-isolation requirement for people who arrive fully vaccinated

Yukon will drop the 14-day self-isolation requirement for anybody arriving in the territory who can prove they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, starting later this month.

Premier Sandy Silver said self-isolation requirements will change as of May 25

'I know that this will be welcome news to Yukoners who have been patiently waiting to visit with family members that they have not seen for months,' said Premier Sandy Silver on Wednesday. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon will drop the 14-day self-isolation requirement for anybody arriving in the territory who can prove they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, starting later this month.

Premier Sandy Silver made the announcement on Wednesday morning.

"As of May 25, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry to Yukon, provided their vaccination status can be confirmed," Silver said at a news conference.

"I know that this will be welcome news to Yukoners who have been patiently waiting to visit with family members that they have not seen for months."

Silver said anybody whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed will still need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Yukon.

Non-essential travel out of territory still not advised

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley, speaking alongside Silver on Wednesday, said the changes are possible because of Yukon's high rate of vaccination. 

As of Tuesday, 25,998 Yukoners — about 74 per cent of eligible adults — had received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, while 22,657 — about 65 per cent of eligible adults — had received both doses.

"The risk, in our estimation, and given our high vaccination rates in Yukon, can no longer be justified by asking fully vaccinated people to isolate when they travel," Hanley said.

But he cautioned that non-essential travel outside of the territory is still not advised, and that Yukoners who do travel will still need to observe all pandemic restrictions where they go. 

"This change in self-isolation requirements is not about an open invitation to travel outside Yukon for your vacation," Hanley said.

"It is more about recognizing that by the time you are two weeks past your second dose of vaccine, your risk of acquiring COVID infection is very, very low."

Hanley also said the risk of fully-vaccinated people transmitting the virus is very low. 

The self-isolation exemption does not apply to people who have received only one shot of the vaccine, nor does it apply to children who are not able to be vaccinated. Hanley said officials are working on alternatives for those people.

Hanley also said that even with the self-isolation exemption, some local establishments may still enforce their own rules.

"Don't assume that you can suddenly make appointments within two weeks of travel. Be safe and book for after that two-week period," Hanley said. 

Watch Wednesday's news conference here:

Silver also announced another change coming later this month — bars and restaurants will be able to return to full capacity for indoor service, also starting May 25.

Since re-opening last year, bars and restaurants have had reduced seating in order to allow physical distancing.

Hanley said Wednesday that the change is good news, but he said it won't be all back to normal right away. 

"This does not mean that dancing and hanging out in common areas will be reintroduced. We're not there yet."

He said spacing requirements for seating at counters and bars will not change, and patrons will still need to stay at their tables and not mingle freely. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the territory had one active case of COVID-19. That case was reported on Monday and there are no public exposure notices associated with it.

The territory has reported 82 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

'Ready, willing and able' to take Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines

Silver was also asked on Wednesday whether Yukon has requested doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for teens in the territory. So far, the territory has only been vaccinating people 18 and older with the Moderna vaccine.

In the N.W.T., first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available for 16- and 17-year-olds starting later this week. That's in response to an outbreak associated with a school in Yellowknife.

On Wednesday, Health Canada announced the Pfizer vaccine would be approved for use in children as young as 12.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto. The N.W.T received its first doses of the vaccine this week, to immunize 16- and 17-year-olds. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Silver said Wednesday that Yukon is "ready, willing and able" to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine when they're available.

"The message to Ottawa is, 'bring it on,'" Silver said.

Hanley said Yukon is in a relatively "good place" right now with COVID-19, so there's less urgency to have another vaccine available.

"We can take our time to consider what's going to work the best. I can't wait to have my kids vaccinated, but I want it to be done with the right product at the right time," Hanley said.

"So we're really just looking at all the options."

Written by Paul Tukker

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