British Columbia health officials discovered 78 more cases of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island over the weekend.
The new cases were among 1,158 cases found across the province since Friday. Twenty-one more people in B.C. died of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the provincial death toll to 1,210.
The Vancouver Island region has recorded 1,675 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
There are 252 active cases in the island region Monday, including 16 people in hospital and six in critical care.
Island Health officials have identified the locations of 240 active cases of COVID-19 in the region Monday. There are 58 active cases in the South Island region, 173 active cases in the Central Island and nine active cases in the North Island.
Nineteen people have died of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island and 1,391 people have recovered.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the new cases and deaths in a news conference Monday in Victoria.
Henry addressed the rising number of COVID-19 variant cases that have appeared across the province, including on Vancouver Island.
“To date we have had 18 cases confirmed of a variant of concern,” Henry said. Four of those cases are the South African variant and 14 cases are the U.K variant, including seven new cases found over the weekend.
Three of the South African variant cases were found in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Fraser Health. “We are actively trying to determine where the people involved acquired their infections,” Henry said.
“Of the 14 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant, four of them are on Vancouver Island – one a traveller from the U.K. and three additional contacts in a close household of that person.”
The other U.K. variant cases were found in the Lower Mainland and have been linked to travel or close contacts of travellers, Henry said.
“This is one of the things that is most concerning for us right now,” Henry said. “This is one of the things that is factoring into all of the decisions that we have to make together over the next coming weeks. We have vaccines, but it’s coming in small amounts.”
Health officials have administered COVID-19 vaccines to 138,892 people in B.C., including 4,491 people who have received second doses.
“Our expectation right now is to be able to vaccinate about 10 per cent of people by March 31,” said B.C.’s health minister. “As of June 30, on our present plan – under what we were told by the federal government – that number will be less than 50 per cent.”
Dix and Henry urged British Columbians to avoid gatherings, wear masks and maintain physical distancing.
“We have light on our horizon but we are not there yet,” Henry cautioned. “I am calling on everybody right now: Hold off on the Super Bowl celebrations this year. You should not be planning – whether it’s at home, in a bar, a restaurant – viewings of the Super Bowl. If we are not able to control this and start seeing spread again, we can undo all the good work we have done.”
Dix described Super Bowl parties as “events that are almost designed for the spread of COVID-19,” and reiterated that such gatherings must be avoided.