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Yukon’s chief medical officer of health says the territory has confirmed its first cases of a specific COVID-19 variant of concern.

Speaking at his weekly news conference in Whitehorse, Dr. Brendan Hanley says lab tests late Tuesday confirmed the P.1 variant, which is the strain first identified in Brazil.

Hanley says the territory has now recorded 76 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and all cases of the P.1 variant involve a family that travelled to Yukon earlier this month and is now self-isolating in Whitehorse.

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He says there has been no community spread.

Hanley says the arrival of the P.1 variant is a concern, in part because there is little information about how the strain responds to the Moderna vaccine, which has been administered to about 70 per cent of Yukon residents.

He is urging residents to continue to follow public health guidelines, maintain physical distance, wash their hands and wear masks to slow the spread of the virus and all its variants.

“We cannot yet rely just on vaccination,” Hanley said.

The territory has made an “astounding accomplishment” immunizing so many people, but thousands remain susceptible, he said.

Those include anyone under age 18 and roughly half of residents aged 18 to 29, who have shown less enthusiasm for the vaccination than the nearly 90 per cent of seniors who have received a shot.

“Even vaccine alone may not be a sufficient layer of protection, at least until our population has a uniformly high uptake (of the vaccine), until our kids get the chance for vaccination as well, and until the risk of importing virus from across the border gets back down to manageable levels,” Hanley said on Wednesday.

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Plans are being made for the time when self-isolation rules and other restrictions can be scaled back, but “we are not there yet,” he said.

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