VICTORIA — British Columbia reported 908 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the third-highest daily total in the province since the start of the pandemic.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a joint statement there are 6,245 active cases and 294 individuals in hospital, of whom 81 are in intensive care.
The officials are also reporting three new deaths, for a total of 1,449 fatalities linked to the virus in B.C.
Some 140 of the new cases are variants of concern, for a total of 1,912, which are primarily the more transmissible strain first identified in the United Kingdom.
The number of cases reported on Friday was the highest daily total in 2021 and third only to the 948 cases announced on Nov. 14 and the 928 cases reported on Nov. 20.
Henry and Dix say while the province is in a different stage of the pandemic than it has been in before, with vaccines providing protection for some people, it is facing a sustained increase in clusters of new cases and outbreaks.
They say increasing cases are caused by variants of concern, which is especially worrying in the Lower Mainland.
"This requires all of us to continue to put our safety layers at the forefront of all we do," Dix and Henry say in the statement.
"We have been able to slowly turn the dial on some restrictions. However, we all need to remember while some activities are safe for us to do, others simply are not."
Residents can be outside with a small group of people, but it needs to be the same group of people, and gathering inside homes is still not allowed, they say.
Henry announced Thursday she was easing restrictions in long-term care homes where most staff and residents have been vaccinated, allowing elderly people to have multiple visitors and to socialize with one another.
She also announced that indoor religious services would be allowed starting Sunday and through May 13, enabling the observation of holidays including Passover, Easter and Ramadan.
Henry and Dix say in the statement Friday that safety protocols must be followed even in areas where restrictions have been eased.
"Social connections and the sharing of a meal or a hug is important for us all, yet we must be vigilant that our need for those connections doesn't put ourselves or those we care about in harm's way. Rather, step away from our screens and step outside with our small core group of close contacts," they say.
"This weekend, choose to be safe, choose to stay small and choose to continue to do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our province."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2021.
The Canadian Press