B.C. extends restrictions, plans travel measures to keep people within health regions

The province saw nearly 3,000 new cases over the weekend, but most concern remains around rising hospitalizations

B.C. has extended its "circuit breaker" restrictions for another five weeks, including the indoor dining ban, limits on social gatherings and group fitness classes.

Premier John Horgan also announced plans to limit people from travelling outside of their health authority, with random roadside checks and fines for those breaking the rules. Further details on travel restrictions are expected on Friday.

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"All of these measures are designed with one purpose in mind — to get us all, all 4.9 million British Columbians — to the end of the pandemic," Horgan said.

The new and extended measures come as a result of growing pressure from hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Data from December 2020 to March 2021 presented on Monday shows hospitalizations are up among multiple age groups, including 20-29 and 50-59, but a steady decline has been seen for those age 70 and older.

Monday's case update reported 441 people in hospital, including 138 in critical care.

Eight further deaths were also reported over the weekend, including a young child less than two years old.

"Although this child had pre-existing health conditions that complicated the illness, it was the virus that caused their death," said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry when reporting the death.

The child lived in the Fraser Health region and was receiving care at BC Children's Hospital.

A total of 2,960 new cases were reported over the three-day weekend period.

By health region, that figure includes 696 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,845 in Fraser Health, 108 in Vancouver Island Health, 211 in Interior Health and 100 in Northern Health.

There are now 9,353 active cases and another 14,711 people are under active public health monitoring and isolating due to exposure to infectious people.

The province has also lowered the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to 40. Previously, only those ages 55 to 65 were eligible, following the suspension of the vaccine's use due to potential blood clot issues.

Late last week, after further review, Health Canada said the vaccine is safe to use for ages 18 and older.

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