WHITE HORSE -- Yukon is eliminating self-isolation requirements for travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and it will allow restaurants to return to full capacity in a “giant leap forward” toward normalcy, the territory's chief medical officer said Wednesday.

Dr. Brendan Hanley and Premier Sandy Silver told a news conference that the territory is also working on a process to verify vaccination status before the changes take effect May 25.

The plan to loosen restrictions is possible because of the high vaccination rate in the territory, Silver said. As of Monday, 74 per cent of eligible Yukoners had received a first dose of a vaccine, while 65 per cent had been given a second shot.

“The vaccines are saving lives. The more people who receive them, the safer we will be and the sooner we will be able to return to a more normal way of living, hallelujah,” Silver said.

Yukon has recorded 82 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Two people have died and there is one active case.

The loosening of travel rules will apply to both Yukoners and travellers from other parts of Canada, Hanley said. But from a practical standpoint, it will be easier to develop a vaccination verification system for Yukoners first..

Officials are still working out the details, but it could mean people returning to Yukon signing a declaration allowing access to their health records to confirm they've had both doses of a vaccine at least two weeks earlier, Silver said.

Working out what the system will look like for non-Yukoners is more complicated and will require co-ordination with the federal, provincial and territorial governments, he said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is discussing so-called vaccine passports with European countries.

Canada will align its policy on whether it will require travellers to provide a vaccine certificate with other countries, but it would be up to each country to set requirements for incoming travellers, Trudeau said.

Hanley said the loosening of self-isolation rules comes with caveats and it is not an open invitation for Yukoners to take vacations outside the territory. Non-essential travel in Canada remains restricted and Yukoners are expected to respect local public health protocols wherever they go.

Vaccinated travellers may also not be allowed to visit certain premises or hospitals and long-term care facilities, he said.

“Don't assume you can suddenly make appointments within two weeks of travel,” he said.

“But we will gradually work with everyone to clarify the direction and to increase your ability to move around in society.”

The exemption does not apply to children or partially vaccinated people, although the territory is working on alternative plans for those groups.

Hanley said officials hope the announcement will persuade some reluctant Yukoners to get their shot.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.