More than 500 now in hospital as province reports 1,006 new cases of COVID-19

Four further deaths were reported on Thursday, with two occurring in the Interior Health region.

B.C. now has more than 500 people in hospital across the province, the most since the pandemic began.

"As we have reported over the past few weeks, the number of hospitalizations and people in ICU continues to be alarming and to rise. The pressure on our health care system is immense right now, and our health care workers need our help," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said as a result of the stress on ICU care and the shifting of staff to cover ICU shifts, nine hospitals in the Lower Mainland will move to urgent and emergency surgeries only. He said he expects the move to last for two weeks, though it will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

On Thursday, B.C. reported 1,006 new cases of COVID-19, with 502 people in hospital and 161 of those patients requiring critical care in ICUs.

Four deaths were also reported on Thursday, including two in Interior Health, according to Dix.

By health region, there were 241 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 600 in Fraser Health, 37 in Island Health, 83 in Interior Health, 42 in Northern Health and three new cases in non-residents of Canada.

Figures for active cases and those being monitored due to exposure were made available during Thursday's press conference.

On the vaccine front, B.C. has now administered a total of 1,500,430 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 88,475 of which were second doses.

A number of groups are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Those ages 40 and older can currently register to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy. A list is available online, although many are now encountering long waiting lists, especially in the Interior Health region.

Other groups include those born in 1958 or earlier, Indigenous people 18 and older and those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable who have received a letter from their doctor.

The province said it will begin booking appointments for those born in 1961 or earlier beginning on Friday.

All B.C. residents eligible to receive a vaccine can register to receive an invitation to book online at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca.

The province said even those who have received their first shot already should register online to receive a booking invitation for a second dose at a later date.

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