Vancouver Island adds 49 new COVID-19 cases as health minister calls vaccine delays 'disappointing'

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VICTORIA -- B.C. health officials have confirmed another 49 cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Friday.

The cases were among 1,005 new cases found across B.C. over the past 24 hours.

The Island Health region has now reported 4,233 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, 555 of which are currently considered active.

Island Health revealed the locations of 446 active cases Friday, including 256 in the South Island, 150 in the Central Island and 40 in the North Island.

Health officials say six people have died of COVID-19 since Thursday, bringing the province's death toll to 1,530.

No new deaths were reported in the Vancouver Island region, where 33 people have died of the virus since the pandemic began.

There are currently 23 people in hospital for treatment of COVID-19 in the island region, with four more receiving critical care.

As of Friday, health officials have identified a total of 5,739 variant cases in B.C. since variants first began emerging in the province. Of that total, 212 are currently active.

Most of the variant cases have been the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first reported in the U.K.

There have been 3,858 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, 1,810 cases of the P.1 variant that was first identified in Brazil, and 71 cases of the B.1.351 variant – first identified in South Africa – confirmed in the province so far.

At a modelling update Thursday, B.C.'s top doctor said that roughly 60 per cent of all active cases in the province were variant cases.

As of Friday, B.C. has administered 1,282,091 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 87,970 second doses.

Moderna vaccine delays

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province's vaccine rollout plan is still underway, though delays in Moderna vaccine deliveries have been challenging.

Earlier Friday, the federal government announced that it would be receiving additional Pfizer vaccine doses this spring, while shipments of the Moderna vaccine would be significantly smaller than expected.

"The delay in Moderna's shipments is disappointing. The sooner we get vaccines in people's arms, the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem," said Dix Friday. "This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame.

"That said, the federal government has said it will send additional doses of Pfizer in May and June," he added. "Doses in April would be more helpful, but we appreciate the ongoing effort and commitment of the federal government."

While the province's vaccine rollout continues, health officials are encouraging British Columbians to continue following health guidelines, such as avoiding non-essential travel and only meeting a small, consistent group of friends outdoors.

Health officials stress that being outdoors reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19, but does not eliminate the risk altogether.

"If you choose to see a close friend for brunch on a patio, then make sure it is the same friend every time," said Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a joint statement Friday. "If you decide to have a barbecue in your backyard, then keep to your roommates or family only.

"It is easy to look for loopholes, but rather let’s look for how we can keep each other safe," said the pair.