Yukon may have led Canada's vaccination rates earlier this year, but the swift return of COVID-19 in the territory was inevitable and has prompted a return to tighter restrictions, Premier Sandy Silver says.

Whitehorse is experiencing widespread, untraceable COVID-19 cases, Silver said Wednesday.

It forced the territory to declare a state of emergency on Monday with measures to reduce transmission that include wearing masks indoors and limits on gatherings from Nov. 13 to Dec. 3.

"Being able to predict when it's going to happen is not something that any jurisdiction can do, but being prepared for the inevitable is something we put a lot of time and energy into," Silver said.

Daily COVID-19 cases in Whitehorse have increased from 10 to 30 over the past week, he said at a news conference.

"We have also learned that COVID-19 is not finished with us even if we've had enough of it," said Silver. "By taking these steps now, we hope to be able to stop the rapid transmission that we are currently seeing in the territory."

The territory reopened a COVID-19 testing facility in Whitehorse, which will operate seven days a week, including Remembrance Day, and no appointment is required, he said.

"Please, I'm begging you, get vaccinated," Silver said. "These vaccines are safe and save lives."

The territory has also fast-tracked its implementation of proof-of-vaccine requirements to access designated establishments and services for residents aged 12 years and older, Silver said.

#COVID19 cases surge in #Yukon, double vaccinated cases rising, says health officer.

Starting Saturday, Yukon residents must show a paper or digital copy of vaccine proof and government-issued photo identification to access the services and establishments, Silver said.

There are currently 156 active COVID-19 cases in the territory, with eight people in hospital, said Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health.

Of the 156 cases, 108 are in Whitehorse, she said.

As of Friday, 89 per cent of Yukon residents aged 12 years and above had received their first vaccine dose and 85 per cent of residents were fully vaccinated.

Elliott said the increase in cases can be attributed to the actions of the highly contagious Delta variant, increases in indoor activity as winter approaches and transmission among unvaccinated people.

But cases of COVID-19 among people who have had two doses of vaccine are also rising, with a 50 per cent increase since June, she said.

Elliott attributed the rising infections among those who have had two shots to the high amount of COVID-19 circulating in Yukon and the length of time that has elapsed since people had their second vaccine dose.

She noted it is normal for vaccine immunity to decrease over time, which is why the government is now offering booster shots to people 50 years and older.

Elliot urged people to get immunized, saying it reduces the chance of being infected with COVID-19 and cuts the risk of severe illness or death.

"This is the medicine that teaches our immune system to react quickly and effectively should we become infected," said Elliott.

She said the territory is also closely monitoring other jurisdictions across Canada to determine when the time is right to offer a more widespread booster shot program.

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.

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