B.C. brings back COVID-19 restrictions after jump in cases

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The province has reimposed some COVID-19 restrictions after rising case numbers and hospitalizations.

“In the last six days we’ve seen the start of exponential growth in new cases. We’ve seen more hospitalizations and more people requiring critical care,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmission in our province.”  

B.C. recorded 2,518 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths over the weekend. There are 299 people in hospital, including 79 in critical care. The province’s positivity rate jumped up to 9.68 per cent, after hovering around six per cent for the past few weeks, according to Adrian Dix, minister of health.

Children in Grade 4 and up will be required to wear masks at all times while in school, according to Henry.

Indoor dining will not be allowed until at least April 19, but restaurants and bars will still be allowed to keep patios, takeout and delivery options available. Establishments that serve only appetizers and snacks must close, said Henry.

Indoor group fitness activities will not be permitted until at least April 19. “Contact tracing has shown us that these settings amplify the spread and as a result, activities indoors in these locations need to be on hold for now,” said Henry.

Indoor religious services, allowed under a recent public health order variance, will no longer be permitted.

B.C. identified 329 new cases of variants of concern, (VOC) mostly of the B.1.1.7 (first identified in the U.K.) variant. There are now 413 active VOC cases in the province.

“We know that this is a variant that is much more transmissible and we’re getting more and more evidence [that it] leads to more serious infections in younger people,” said Henry, who added the province has also seen a notable increase in the P.1 variant, first identified in Brazil. Vaccines may be less effective against the P.1 variant, based on data from other parts of the world, she said.

“We are concerned that these are driving much of our current transmission,” Henry said. 

The province has administered 699,092 doses of the three COVID-19 vaccines, including 87,289 second doses. 

Due to several dozen cases of a rare condition in young people associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the province will temporarily suspend the use of its vaccine in people under 55 for a few days, according to Henry.

The province will receive 160,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, according to Dix. 

British Columbians 73 and older can book their appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine today.

This story will be updated when Island Health releases its weekend COVID-19 case numbers.

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