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Yukon announces mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for a wide range of workers

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WHITEHORSE — A wide range of workers in Yukon will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help slow the spread of the Delta variant, says Premier Sandy Silver.

He said Friday that all government employees and front-line health-care workers, along with employees of partner groups that receive funding from the territory, will be required to be fully vaccinated as of Nov. 30.

Proof of vaccination will also be required to attend non-essential businesses including bars, restaurants, theatres, gyms and sports facilities.

"We absolutely recognize that these measures may pose hardships to some and bring relief to others. My sincere hope is this will prompt vaccine-hesitant Yukoners to roll up their sleeves," Silver told a news conference.

The territory is targeting a vaccination rate of 90 per cent among eligible people, a milestone Silver said no other Canadian jurisdiction has hit.

The Delta variant, and the ease with which it spreads and causes patients to become sicker, is behind the changes, he added.

"The Delta variant is different, it's aggressive, it's a game-changer. I've had two chief medical officers of health now saying if you're unvaccinated it's just a matter of time (to contract the virus)," Silver said.

"As we start to see increases to people being hospitalized, good people being hospitalized, these are things that are necessary to keep everybody safe."

Acting chief medical officer of health Dr. Catherine Elliott said she understands some residents may be frustrated by the announcement, and she urged those who are upset not to take their frustrations out on health workers.

"I know not everybody will be happy about these recommendations. It's normal to have these feelings, but what is not acceptable is to take out your feelings on the people around you," she said.

She added that social gatherings should be limited to 20 people indoors and only if everyone is fully vaccinated, or a maximum of six if there are some who are not fully vaccinated.

Elliott said the spike in COVID-19 cases in northern British Columbia, which has led the Northern Health authority to transfer patients out of the region due to hospitals being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, highlights the importance of vaccinations.

The vaccination clinic in Whitehorse will be open five days a week, starting Monday, in an effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

There were 59 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory as of Thursday evening, bringing the total number of cases in Yukon since March 2020 to 831.

— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press