Dr. Henry confident B.C. can safely enter second stage of restart if social contacts remain low

B.C. has set a minimum date of June 15 for Step 2 of its restart plan, which allows for more social contact, travel and sport and exercise activities

B.C. health officials are reporting 153 new cases of COVID-19 and four further deaths due to the disease.

The number of active cases continues to decline, down to 1,910 on Thursday. Hospitalizations are also down, with 176 patients in B.C. hospitals and 49 of those patients requiring critical care.

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By health region, there were 21 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 73 in Fraser Health, 11 in Vancouver Island Health, 39 in Interior Health and nine in Northern Health.

With four additional deaths reported on Thursday, a total of 1,729 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. Of Thursday's deaths, one person was in their 50s, one in their 60s and two in their 80s or older.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided updated modelling information on Thursday showing how B.C.'s cases have declined as vaccines take hold. Modelling data shows good news in terms of transmission, with cases remaining low, even with up to 80 per cent of normal social contact.

"We will be in a good position to safely move forward with our restart plan," Henry said, noting that as long as people increase social contact slowly, she is confident the restart will be safe.

B.C. set a minimum date of June 15 for moving to Step 2 of its restart plan. Henry said more information will come next week.

With health orders somewhat relaxed in Step 2, newly allowed activities include personal gatherings up to 50 people outdoors and indoor seated organized gatherings up to 50 people with a safety plan in place. Additionally, provincial travel restrictions will be lifted, liquor service hours will increase at pubs, bars and restaurants and more sports and exercise activity can take place.

Part of the data presented Thursday was an update on variants of concern (VOCs) in the province, which are strains of the coronavirus that spread more easily or cause more severe illness.

As of Thursday, B.C.'s variant cases are dominated by two strains: the Alpha variant (originally known as the U.K. variant) which makes up 54 per cent of all VOC cases and the Gamma variant (Brazil, or P.1), which makes up 42 per cent.

A graph presented by Dr. Henry also shows the emergence of the concerning Delta variant, which measured 4 per cent of all VOC cases.

In recent weeks, B.C. has managed to administer approximately 325,000 doses of vaccine each week. To date, the province has put 3,823,103 total doses in arms, including 443,562 second doses.

In terms of coverage, that means 74.9 per cent of all people in B.C. have received at least one dose. Including those 12 to 17 years old, the province's coverage stands at 72.8 per cent.

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