Yukon to step up enforcement as COVID-19 cases rise but no more restrictions
WHITEHORSE -- Yukon's premier says enforcement will be stepped up to try and ensure compliance with COVID-19 measures as infections continue rising, but no new restrictions will be introduced to deal with what he calls a "serious situation."
Sandy Silver says an outbreak that has brought the territory's total number of cases since the pandemic began to 136 is linked to graduation events at a high school, two classes at an elementary school and several groups that gathered for bush parties, house parties and at bars.
He says the territory will add resources to boost enforcement where necessary and is working with the RCMP to make sure people are fined for violating restrictions.
Silver is also encouraging Yukoners to anonymously call a hotline to report those breaking rules by attending uncontrolled social gatherings, failing to isolate or providing false information.
Silver says that while the territory initially had one of the highest vaccination rates in North America, a program to immunize youth between the ages of 12 and 17 began earlier this month and people in that age group should get vaccinated.
He says a contact tracing team has been "slammed" over the last two weeks due to large social gatherings where people did not practise physical distancing.
"We have taken a very careful and measured approach to lifting restrictions. But we are relying on Yukoners to follow the public health recommendations that are in place."
Chief medical health officer Dr. Brendan Hanley says Yukon has 50 active cases but those who are not vaccinated represent the fuel that will further ignite the virus, especially as the more transmissible Gamma variant, which was first detected in Brazil, makes up most of the cases.
"A couple of weeks ago we had no active cases in Yukon while we watched our neighbours to the south and the east struggle with increasing case counts and illness," he told a news conference on Wednesday. "You could say, in a way, that it's now our turn. Just at the point we thought there was an end in sight and we were ready for further relaxation (of restrictions), this hit us."
Hanley says the focus is on getting more youth vaccinated, but businesses won't be shut down.
"Locking down the rest of the community doesn't make sense."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2021