The Government of Yukon is strengthening public health measures to address the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the Yukon as a result of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The Yukon is experiencing unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm the territory's health care system.
Based on recommendations from the Yukon’s acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, new temporary public health measures are being introduced to further limit contact between individuals and prevent further strain on public health systems.
The new temporary measures include:
- limiting all private and public gatherings to two households up to a maximum of 10 people, including recreational team sports; group fitness; group recreation and leisure activities; and at bars and restaurants, which remain limited to six people per table.
- postponing all indoor organized events including funerals and weddings;
- requiring casinos to stay closed; and
- requiring bars and restaurants to close no later than 10 p.m.
All Yukoners are strongly encouraged to follow these new recommendations immediately. They will be enforced under the Civil Emergency Measures Act starting on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.
These new measures strengthen those that are already in force with respect to mask use, providing proof of vaccination and limits on capacity.
Based on trends in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, which are one to two weeks ahead of the territory, the Yukon can expect more hospitalizations in the coming weeks even with the new public health measures in place.
An increase in hospital admissions along with high rates of illness and absenteeism among health care workers in the coming weeks would put a significant strain on the Yukon’s health care system.
In addition to the new measures, the acting Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends that businesses continue to:
- promote work from home policies wherever possible;
- promote "stay home when sick" policies; and
- offer supports to mitigate the impacts of self-isolation policies, including financial impacts.
The Yukon’s Paid Sick Leave Rebate program is available to employers and people who are self-employed. It provides up to 10 days’ wages for workers who are sick, self-isolating or caring for other household members due to COVID-19. The Yukon Emergency Relief Program is also available to support Yukon businesses and non-governmental organizations affected by the orders under the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA).
All eligible Yukoners are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and receive a booster as soon as possible to increase the level of protection against COVID-19.
The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health continues to assess the situation and will make additional recommendations as required, including when to lift these new temporary measures.
We are in a critical period here in the territory as we brace for the impact other jurisdictions across Canada and the world are experiencing as a result of the Omicron variant. These new public health measures are necessary to limit the strain on our health care system and prevent it from being overwhelmed. Following public health recommendations, limiting close contacts and getting vaccinated are essential to protecting the health and safety of all Yukoners in this new phase of the pandemic.
Premier Sandy Silver
We understand that the considerable impacts of Omicron are taking their toll on many Yukoners and putting a serious risk of strain on our health care system. These new measures are necessary to reduce the number of people who will become seriously ill and are designed to reduce COVID risk while maintaining health and wellbeing, to the greatest extent possible. In addition to following these new temporary measures, now is the time to get up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster dose for adults.
acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Catherine Elliott
Public health measures and vaccinations are two of the six pillars of the COVID-19 response, as outlined in Forging Ahead.
Omicron is the Yukon’s dominant variant. The territory is predicted to experience continued growth in case counts for at least the next three to five weeks.
Per cent positivity in the Yukon has been rising from eight per cent on December 28, 2021, to 40 per cent as of January 11, 2022, and is among the highest in Canada. The national rate was 30 per cent on January 10, 2022.
The high infection rate has challenged the Yukon’s testing capacity so lab-based PCR tests remain limited to vulnerable populations. Confirmatory testing is not necessary for people who use rapid tests.
Hospitalization rates with Omicron lag behind cases. Milder symptoms are considerably more likely among those whose vaccines are up to date (including boosters) and without risk factors for severe disease. Severe disease is similar in severity to that of Delta and more common among those who are not fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 is still considered a mild illness for the vast majority of children. The rise in the number of hospitalizations among youth in other jurisdictions is concerning and likely tied to the variant’s ability to infect more children.
The Yukon is seeing an increase in staff absenteeism and human resource strain in health care, emergency services and schools.
Other jurisdictions the Yukon relies on for acute care support are also experiencing waves of Omicron and associated strain.