B.C. reports fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

British Columbia reported just 184 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking the province's lowest single-day increase in infections since October.

B.C. has now identified 144,473 cases and suffered 1,703 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Health officials had no new coronavirus-related fatalities to announce on Tuesday.

The province's case numbers have been declining for weeks after peaking at a seven-day average of 1,230 back in April. That average has since dropped to 262 per day.

The last time B.C. recorded fewer than 200 cases during one 24-hour reporting period was Oct. 20, when officials announced 167 infections.

The progress recently paved the way for the government to loosen several of its COVID-19 restrictions, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix have stressed that the situation must continue to improve before more orders are lifted or relaxed.

People can do their part by getting fully immunized with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, they said.

"The more people who are fully vaccinated, the less risk there is that the virus can spread in our communities, and the more quickly we'll be able to confidently put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. Let's keep moving forward," Henry and Dix said in a joint written statement.

A total of 3,303,334 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines have now been administered across the province, including 191,222 second doses.

As of Tuesday, health officials said just over 70 per cent of B.C. adults and 67 per cent of those 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The province recently shortened the interval between doses to eight weeks for most vaccine recipients, and on Thursday the government is scheduled to unveil more information on the options available to those who received AstraZeneca as their first dose.

Earlier in the day, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization approved a mix-and-match approach to vaccination, with updated guidance allowing people to receive Pfizer or Moderna as a second dose regardless of whether they received Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca for their first dose.

"This latest guidance will help inform the approach we take here in B.C. for those who received the AstraZeneca COVISHIELD vaccine. More information will be provided on this later this week," Henry and Dix said.

Beyond vaccination rates and case numbers, B.C. officials are watching hospitalizations as they determine when to increase gathering limits, lift travel restrictions, reopen nightclubs and allow events such as rock concerts and festivals. While the number of patients battling COVID-19 in hospital has been decreasing, the progress has been slower and less steady.

The number of hospitalizations increased slightly on Tuesday to 254, which includes 80 patients in intensive care.

Henry and Dix have urged the public to continue following the remaining restrictions and using their "layers of protection," which includes wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested for COVID-19 when symptomatic.