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B.C. looks to ease COVID-19 restrictions 'in coming weeks'

Last Updated Mar 9, 2021 at 6:33 am PDT

FILE - Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization plan as Premier John Horgan and Minister Arian Dix look on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested B.C. is getting closer to easing COVID-19 restrictions

Henry said it will be a phased approach, more like 'slowly turning up the dial'

B.C. reported on Monday a total of 1,462 COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths over a three-day period

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues in B.C. and the weather starts to warm up, the provincial health officer is suggesting health restrictions could slowly start to be lifted in the coming weeks.

Dr. Bonnie Henry describes the process as “slowly turning up the dial” as opposed to “flipping a switch”, explaining the phased approach will see the return of types of gatherings with precautions in place, as well as in-person religious services.

“As we head into March break or spring break … [we could see] the return of things like gatherings outside, where it is safer. Activities outside that we can do in groups with precautions in place — small groups that we can do for games and summer camps or spring camps — and safe, small groups with masks and safety precautions in place,” Henry said.

“As well, we’ll be looking at how we can travel and explore during March break, as a family or a small group together with our household, exploring our own region,” she added.

“There is much that we can look forward to in the coming months as we look ahead.”

This comes as Henry reported 1,462 new COVID-19 infections since Friday, and 11 deaths from the virus.

There are 240 patients in the hospital, with 66 of them in the ICU.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C.: What you need to know

A new outbreak has been declared at the Cottonwoods Care Centre, where Henry noted a “high uptake of immunization.”

“This serves to remind us that while we are very confident that vaccine is very effective and prevents particularly severe illness and death doesn’t necessarily mean that all transmission will be stopped. We need to be mindful right now, when we still have high levels of transmission in our communities, how important it is to continue those precautions, particularly with older people.”

The outbreaks at Royal City Manor long-term care home and the SFU Childcare Centre have ended.

Of the newly reported infections, 144 are variants, bringing the provincial total to 394. Henry said the number mostly consists of the B.1.1.7 strain and the majority of infections are in the Fraser Health region. Eighty-seven cases are still active.

“The trend continues in that about a quarter of these cases, we do not know exactly how they were transmitted, which tells us that these variants are some of the viruses that are being transmitted in our communities,” she added.

RELATED: B.C. COVID vaccine booking system overwhelmed, ineligible groups reminded not to call

Monday marked the opening of B.C.’s vaccine booking system, which came with some frustration for the number of people who ran into problems getting through. Henry asked for patience for while call volumes are high.

“While I’m grateful to see the enthusiasm that we have, we ask everyone who is outside of the age groups for this week, to please be patient and wait your turn,” she said.

To date, 333,327 doses of vaccine have been given, and nearly 87,000 are second shots.