COVID-19 restrictions extended to Feb. 5 in B.C. to 'hold the line'

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor says COVID-19 restrictions that were set to expire Friday have been extended to Feb. 5.

Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the extension while reporting eight more deaths and 761 new cases of COVID-19, saying the spike is partly related to changes in streamlining its reporting.

However, the curve of the second wave in B.C. is trending up again, Henry said Thursday.

It's not the time to ease restrictions and if further action is required to limit the spread of the illness, it will be taken, she said.

"If we see positive trends in our cases and our hospitalizations ... we will monitor that as well," said Henry. "Right now, we need to hold the line."

The public health rules prohibit events and social gatherings among people from different households, as well as adult team sports and other activities.

The orders allow essential workplaces, schools and the health-care system to remain open, said Henry.

"We know that transmission is less likely to occur in these controlled environments that have their many layers of protection in place."

The order will cover the next two COVID-19 incubation periods to ensure everything possible is being done to protect people as the province's immunization program gets underway, she said.

"We are in this period of greatest risk and greatest potential benefit and we need to have the room to provide vaccine."

Henry said the number of new cases they're seeing in all health authorities indicates that people are making an exception for themselves in following restrictions, increasing everyone's risk.

"This is important for all of us, for our mental, physical and emotional health."

Tighter restrictions were first imposed in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions on Nov. 7 and then expanded to the rest of the province on Nov. 19.

The regulations had been set to expire in early December but were extended as cases continued to rise ahead of the holidays.

There have been 41,064 doses of vaccine administered so far in B.C.

Two more B.C. residents have tested positive for a variant of the novel coronavirus first detected in the United Kingdom, Henry noted.

They are both household contacts of the first person to test positive for the variant after he or she returned to B.C. from travel to the U.K., she said.

"There are no other contacts and we do not believe that anybody else is at risk," said Henry, noting testing for the variant is ongoing.

B.C. has confirmed 56,015 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Of those cases, 6,349 infections are active on Thursday.

The death toll in the province has more than doubled in the last six weeks and is now at 970.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press