B.C. reports 542 new COVID-19 cases and 7 deaths; number of variant cases tops 200

Click to play video: 'More specifics about phase 2 of B.C.’s vaccine rollout' More specifics about phase 2 of B.C.’s vaccine rollout
Vancouver Coastal Health's Dr. Patricia Daly talked to Paul Haysom about the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccines and how health officials are planning to accelerate the vaccine rollout in the next few weeks – Mar 3, 2021

British Columbia health officials reported 542 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, along with seven additional deaths.

In a written statement, officials said there were 4,654 active cases in the province, and an additional 8,617 people isolating due to possible exposure.

Of the new cases, 131 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 292 were in the Fraser Health region, 31 were in the Island Health region, 43 were in the Interior Health region and were 44 in the Northern Health region.

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Read more: B.C. reports 438 new COVID-19 cases as top doctor defends plan to delay second dose

There were 246 people in hospital — 64 of whom were in critical or intensive care.

B.C. has given 203,193 people, just under four per cent of the province’s population, a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 86,616 people have received both doses.

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The province identified 18 more cases of COVID-19 variants of concern, bringing the total reported so far to 200. Twenty-four were the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, while 176 were the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K.

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Just 11 of those variant cases remain active, while the rest have recovered.

About 92 per cent of B.C.’s 81,909 cases have recovered, while 1,372 people have died.

Earlier Wednesday, Canada accepted its first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Read more: B.C. says all eligible adults should get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by end of July

On Monday, the province unveiled its updated plan to vaccinate the general public, including a delay in administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines by up to four months. Officials said evidence showed those vaccines could be up to 90-per-cent effective after a single shot.

While Canada’s chief science advisor suggested the decision amounted to a “population-level experiment” earlier this week, on Wednesday the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended provinces and territories extend the time between first and second doses to four months amid vaccine shortages.

The decision to delay the second dose means B.C. should be able to offer a first shot to anyone who wants one by the end of July, according to the government.

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B.C. extends state of emergency through to March 16 – Mar 2, 2021

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