Yukon premier announces vaccine mandate, passport program starting Nov. 30
'My sincere hope is that this will prompt vaccine-hesitant Yukoners to roll up their sleeves'
All Yukon government employees and front-line health workers will need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, Premier Sandy Silver announced Friday.
"This will apply to all public servants, including teachers, as well as those who work in hospitals, long-term care homes, medical clinics and allied health care settings," said Silver.
He added the requirement will also apply to organizations funded by the Yukon government who provide services to vulnerable populations.
Proof of vaccination, or a vaccine passport, will also be required starting on Nov. 30 for Yukoners who want to access all non-essential businesses and attend events.
"This includes bars and restaurants, live music events, theatre performances, cultural events, gyms, exercise, dance and sports facilities," said Silver.
He added proof of vaccination will also be needed to participate in recreational activities, including all organized sports leagues, for anyone over 12.
"My sincere hope is that this will prompt vaccine-hesitant Yukoners to roll up their sleeves," said Silver, adding the territory has set a goal of getting 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated.
Missed the news conference? Watch it here:
'We need to act now'
Silver said the government is adopting the measures based on recommendations made by the territory's acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Catherine Elliott.
"We're in a situation of steady increase, outbreaks and increase in the complexity of cases and situations," said Elliott. "We need to act now."
"We only need to look east to Northwest Territories to see how one event, with a great deal of spread, can seed into unvaccinated population around the territory with devastating effects," she added, noting the vaccination rate is lower in N.W.T. than it is in Yukon.
In mid-August, a hand-games tournament was held in the Sahtu region of the N.W.T., leading to an outbreak in the region that has spread to the Yellowknife area. The territory currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country.
Until the measures are implemented on Nov. 30, Elliott made four strong recommendations to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. They are:
Anyone who travels outside of the Yukon and who is not fully vaccinated should avoid non-essential services for 10 days until they are sure they don't have COVID-19,
All out-of-territory school field trips be cancelled until the end of January 2022,
Indoor group sizes be limited to six when the vaccine status of people is unknown, and 20 if everyone is fully vaccinated,
And that non-essential businesses be limited to 50 per cent capacity unless everyone is fully vaccinated.
63 active cases
Elliott said that as of 10 a.m. on Friday, there are 63 COVID-19 active cases in the territory.
She said there has been an average of seven new cases a day in the territory over the last week.
Before the press conference, she declared an outbreak in the Grade 4 class at Elijah Smith Elementary school in Whitehorse. She said those involved are being contacted and given further instructions.
She added that there hasn't been a new case in the Grade 4 class at Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake over the last several weeks and she expects to declare the outbreak there over next week.
Meanwhile, she said the Kindergarten and Grade 1, 2 and 3 split class at Ghùch Tlâ Community School in Carcross remains under observation. An outbreak was declared there on Oct. 1.
Working with B.C.
Silver said Yukon's measures are similar to what is happening in British Columbia, and that Yukon officials are working with their counterparts in B.C. for the development of apps, "taking their technology and applying it for Yukon."
"I guess the good news of us coming a few weeks out of the gates after B.C. is all the trials, tribulations, lessons learned," Silver said. "We have a jurisdiction in Canada we can work with and apply solutions from."
- At a press conference on Friday, acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott strongly recommended that people who travel outside of Yukon should avoid non-essential businesses for 10 days upon return to the territory. This story has been updated to reflect that the recommendation is for travellers who aren't fully vaccinated.Oct 18, 2021 5:39 PM CT