British Columbia reported 832 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with five additional deaths.
At a live briefing, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 310 of the new cases were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 388 were in the Fraser Health region, 53 were in the Island Health region, 42 were in the Interior Health region and 39 were in the Northern Health region.
Thursday’s case count pushed B.C.’s seven-day rolling average for new cases to 873. A month prior, on March 1, it stood at just 497.
There were 7,571 active cases, while 296 people were in hospital, 79 of whom were in critical or intensive care.
Henry used the briefing to urge British Columbians to stay home over the Easter long weekend, and to ensure that if they did gather with others, it was outside.
“This is not the time for any of us to be travelling for leisure or vacation or getaways outside of our community, travel is still very high risk for all of us — we take the risk from where we are coming and we take it home from where we have been,” she said.
“If you do choose to spend time with anyone other than your immediate household this weekend, it must be outdoors. And all of the COVID-19 safety plans and precautions need to continue to be followed as more and more of our seniors and elders in particular are protected, we need to give that time for that best protection to take hold.”
Henry said B.C. had identified another 90 cases of variants of concern in the past 48 hours. The province had 192 active variant cases, and 35 people hospitalized with a variant.
Henry said a cluster of the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil, had been contained in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
“There’s no focal superspreading event related to these, what we’re finding is there is small chains of transmission in multiple areas that aren’t linked, so it is community spread,” she said.
The province has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 700,255 people, or about 13.7 per cent of the province’s population. Of them, 87,394 people have also had second doses.
Henry also confirmed that the vaccination of first-responders and some other priority groups, outside of B.C.’s age-based immunization program, had been paused due to its near-suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine use.
“We are going to be following what’s happening around the world with the data around this vaccine, and I am confident we’ll be able to get back to that program soon, but we need to make sure we are all confident with the safety and with who is the best population to use it,” she said.
B.C. suspended the use of AstraZeneca on Monday amid concerns it could cause blood clots in a small percentage of people under the age of 55.
It has been using remaining supplies of the vaccine to immunize people aged 55-65 in recent days, to ensure none of the supply goes to waste.
B.C. has recorded 100,880 total cases have recovered, while 1,463 people have died.
Earlier Thursday, the province opened COVID-19 vaccine bookings to people aged 72 (born in 1949) and older.
On Wednesday, new COVID-19 infections in B.C. shattered records, clocking in at over 1,000 for the first time. The province also surpassed 100,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic.
Rising COVID-19 cases prompted a new round of “circuit breaker” restrictions on Monday, which include a ban on indoor restaurant service until April 19.