The Yukon government will shut down its COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre on Nov. 18 as significant changes are made to the territory’s response to COVID-19.
“For many months we have been learning to live with COVID-19 as part of our everyday lives,” Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said in a statement. “Yukoners have done an exceptional job throughout the pandemic following public health guidance and doing their part by getting vaccinated.
“It’s now time to shift our response to ensure we have the tools we need to live with COVID-19 as part of our day to day lives. I encourage Yukoners to stay up to date on all vaccines and boosters, stay home when sick and respect each other’s personal health decisions as we learn to live with COVID-19.”
In a Nov. 10 statement, the Yukon government announced the planned closure of the testing centre, noting lab-based testing is no longer routinely recommended for Yukoners with COVID-19 symptoms unless they are otherwise advised by a health care provider. PCR testing will continue to be available for those who need it for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, such as to receive the Paxlovid medication to treat COVID-19.
In an emailed response to questions, Health and Social Services spokesperson Samantha Henney reiterated the importance of vaccinations for respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19 and the flu.
The territory is encouraging Yukoners to work with health care providers, their local health centre or emergency department to discuss testing and treatment. They can also call 8-1-1 at any time to speak with a registered nurse or use the self-assessment tool online to determine if they need to see a health care provider, who can perform the PCR test.
Rapid tests also continue to be available at various government offices, pharmacies and stores throughout the territory.
The changes are outlined in Charting the Course: Living with and Managing COVID-19, a new document being used to guide the territory’s continued response to the pandemic.
As of Nov. 10, self-isolation guidance was also altered to align with other illnesses, meaning Yukoners who have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 should stay home when they are symptomatic. They are no longer required to isolate for a certain number of days, thus the government will close self-isolation facilities as of Dec. 16.
Despite getting rid of the isolation requirement, the government is encouraging Yukoners to stay home if they are sick and it will continue to provide the paid sick leave rebate program, which provides employers and those who are self-employed with up to 10 days of wages for those who are sick with COVID-19.
It was also noted public health measures and isolation periods may remain in place in certain circumstances to protect the more vulnerable, such as at long-term care homes, health centres and hospitals.
Vaccine and booster shots will remain available throughout the territory with the Yukon government integrating the latest COVID-19 vaccinations into immunization programs.
The territory’s COVID-19 dashboard will also be decommissioned, though historical data will remain available. Work is also underway to develop a new health information dashboard anticipated to be available at yukon.ca in mid-December.
“We are at the point in the pandemic where our public health response must shift to a more sustainable approach,” Dr. Sudit Ranade, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. “We will accomplish this by integrating vaccines, testing and surveillance into our existing systems and channels while continuing to support the health and wellbeing of all Yukoners.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of getting vaccinated and staying up to date on your boosters. It’s our best protection against the virus. If you have any questions about getting vaccinated, reach out to your health care provider to discuss your options.”
Figures provided by the Whitehorse General Hospital show between March and September of this year a total of 37 were admitted for COVID-19, one for RSV and one for influenza.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at [email protected]