WHITEHORSE — Yukon’s top doctor says the renewed order requiring a two-week COVID-19 isolation period for most people entering the territory feels like “going backwards.”
The decision to reimpose the directive starting Friday drew an emotional response from Dr. Brendan Hanley during a news conference in Whitehorse Thursday as he spoke beside Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.
In a shaking voice, Hanley says he knows the order, affecting all but critical service workers and specific communities along the Yukon/B.C. boundary, will leave “families, friends, students and visitors with broken hearts,” but says it’s in the best interests of Yukon residents.
There are 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, and Hanley says the latest case involves a person not linked to travel outside Yukon.
However, he says it’s too early to determine if the infection was transmitted in the community.
The new order also advises against all but essential travel to or from Yukon as COVID-19 cases surge elsewhere in Canada, and both Hanley and Silver warn of further possible restrictions, including a mandatory mask policy.
“The new cases we have seen in Yukon recently, combined with dramatic increases in cases in Nunavut, British Columbia and across the country, made this a very necessary decision,” says Silver.
Hanley says the new restrictions will give the territory more security.
“We are looking at a potential mask policy and will shortly advise the Yukon government on what a mask requirement would look like,” he says.
However, Hanley says masks remain only one layer of safety and don’t override the need to maintain physical distance, wash hands and carefully monitor for symptoms of the virus.
As for the decision to return to a 14-day quarantine, Hanley says he had been moving toward it as he watched the worsening projections and modelling in B.C.
“It really came to a point where the risk in my mind was enough to recommend the change to the government,” he says.