Nearly two-dozen more COVID-19 cases have been identified in the Island Health region Thursday as health officials announced an extension to B.C.’s health orders on social gatherings.

B.C.’s sweeping restrictions have been extended until Feb. 5, or “the next two incubation periods,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The health orders include restrictions on meeting with friends outside of one’s immediate household and gatherings or events of any kind. 

Over the past 24 hours, 761 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed across the province, including 23 on Vancouver Island.

Eight more people have died of the virus over the same time period, bringing B.C.’s death toll to 970.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry notes that B.C. is updating its reporting systems, meaning that today’s case numbers are higher than usual because reporting times have shifted slightly earlier.

Instead of laboratories reporting positive COVID-19 cases to individual health authorities, who then report to the BCCDC, testing labs will now provide updates to both health authorities and the BCCDC at the same time.

Henry says that this shift in daily reporting should streamline daily case counts, which is a “challenging, complex and labour-intensive process.”

“What remains the same is that every case is still counted and every person who tests positive is still notified,” said Henry.

Across the province, 372 people are in hospital for COVID-19, including 74 who require critical care.

In the Island Health region alone, eight people are currently in hospital for treatment of the virus.

One new health-care outbreak was declared Thursday, at the Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum assisted living facility in Duncan.

There are now 61 active outbreaks in B.C.’s health-care system. Most of the active outbreaks, 51, are located in long-term care or assisted living facilities. Ten are located in acute care units.

Henry added that the province had seen two more cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant. Both cases are in people who are household contacts of the first person who tested positive for the variant, a resident of Vancouver Island.