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B.C. reports 564 new cases of COVID-19 as variant cases climb again

Click to play video: 'Keith Baldrey on the light at the end of B.C.’s COVID-19 tunnel' Keith Baldrey on the light at the end of B.C.’s COVID-19 tunnel
Global's Keith Baldrey on how, despite a growing number of active COVID-19 cases, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. – Mar 4, 2021

British Columbia health officials reported 564 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with four additional deaths.

At a live briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it left B.C. with 4,743 active cases. Another 8,659 people were isolating due to potential exposure.

Click to play video: 'B.C. officials report 564 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths' B.C. officials report 564 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths
B.C. officials report 564 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths – Mar 4, 2021

Of the new cases, 168 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 279 were in the Fraser Health region, 35 were in the Island Health region, 36 were in the Interior Health region and 46 were in the Northern Health region.

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B.C. reported 46 new cases of the COVID-19 variants of concern, bringing the total so far to 246: 218 of those were the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K., while 28 were the B.1.351 first identified in South Africa.

The province says it still does not know the origin of about 25 per cent of those cases.

Read more: This poster shows how a B.C. pub trivia night turned into a COVID-19 superspreader event

Just 16 of those cases remain active, four of them in hospital. Two people have died from the variants.

Click to play video: 'Will you need a vaccine passport?' Will you need a vaccine passport?
Will you need a vaccine passport? – Mar 4, 2021

B.C. has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 212,105 people, about 4.1 per cent of the population, while 86,746 people have had both a first and second dose.

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The province announced Monday it would wait up to four months to administer second doses, allowing everyone who wants a shot to have one by the end of July.

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“We were coming up to a time this week where there was tens of thousands of doses of vaccine being scheduled for people to receive their second dose, and that would have left us with very little vaccine to be able to continue to protect more people and more communities around the province,” Henry said.

“I regret and I apologize to those communities, to the long-term care homes, to individuals who had a second dose scheduled … I know that came as a shock to many people and I regret that our communications were not able to keep up as fast as the decision making. Please know this was made in the spirit of understanding data and maximizing the benefit to all of us.”

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The first doses of the third vaccine approved in Canada, the Oxford-AstraZeneca product, will begin to arrive in B.C. “some time next week,” she added.

The initial shipments will be used to address ongoing clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19. The province will then develop a plan to distribute future shipments to first responders and potentially other front-line workers.

There were 248 people in hospital, 63 of whom were in critical or intensive care.

About 92 per cent of B.C.’s 82,473 cases have recovered, while 1,376 people have died.

Earlier Thursday, federal health officials signaled that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine, Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot which is considered 85 per cent effective, could be approved within “days.” The U.S. approved the vaccine on Saturday.

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