Dr. Bonnie Henry at today’s news conference. /BC Gov Flickr

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel

Public health measures originally scheduled to end today in B.C. have been extended for five weeks, through the end of the May long weekend (May 24th).

Premier John Horgan said new orders will be put in place on Friday that will restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority. This will be enforced by random roadside stops and additional restrictions on travel via BC Ferries, who will stop accepting recreational vehicle bookings and ask all customers if their travel is essential.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 2,960 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend: 1,027 from Friday to Saturday, 933 from Saturday to Sunday and a further 1,000 in the last 24 hours. Since the pandemic began, B.C. has recorded 120,040 cases.

Of the new cases, 696 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 1,845 in the Fraser Health region, 108 in the Island Health region, 211 in the Interior Health region and 100 in the Northern Health region.

There are 9,353 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and 441 people are hospitalized, 138 of whom are in intensive care. A further 14,711 people are under active public health monitoring.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said there is a great deal of pressure on B.C.’s healthcare system, and that the occupancy rate in COVID-19 hospitals is higher than the provincial average. There has been an increase in hospitalizations in 20-29-year-olds, and the most notable increases have been in 50- to 59-year-olds, both men and women.

To date, 1,380,160 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-SII COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C. The AstraZeneca vaccine will soon be available to people aged 40 and older at pharmacies across the province. There will be additional AstraZeneca-only clinics set up for people aged 40 and older in high priority communities that are seeing a large number of cases relative to their population.

Slide from today’s BC Gov presentation showing high-priority communities.

Sadly, there were eight new virus-related deaths reported today, bringing that total to 1,538. One of the new deaths was a child under the age of two, who had pre-existing health conditions but died as a result of complications from COVID-19.

Several healthcare facility outbreaks were declared over, but active outbreaks continue at five long-term care, assisted living and independent living facilities and five acute care facilities.

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, exposures and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.