B.C. has confirmed another 998 cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths from the disease over the last two days, as people in the Lower Mainland begin to live under strict new restrictions meant to prevent transmission.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided the latest update in a live briefing on Monday, saying that the number of active cases across the province has risen to a new high of 4,891. Hospitalization rates have risen again and there are now 133 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 43 in intensive care.

The province has now confirmed a total of 18,714 cases of the novel coronavirus to date, including 281 people who have died. A total of 9,179 people are under active monitoring by public health workers because of exposure to the virus.

Monday’s briefing follows the announcement this weekend of sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions for the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions for a two-week period as cases in the province surge. The new orders focus on social gatherings, travel, indoor group exercises and workplaces.

Henry said it’s time to return to the strict safety measures that people were following in the spring when the pandemic began, postponing social gatherings, cancelling play dates, working from home whenever possible and pausing non-essential travel. 

“This latest action in our COVID-19 response is about putting the brakes on the virus,” she said.

The goal is to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 that has been seen in recent weeks, while still allowing the health-care and school systems to operate normally.

“If you are in doubt about whether to travel or whether to see somebody, don’t do it,” Henry said Monday.

Strict rules for Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health

Residents of the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions are being told not to have social interactions with anyone outside of their immediate household. The province clarified on Sunday that the ban on gatherings from people outside your household includes outdoor gatherings and gatherings in restaurants.

Those two Lower Mainland health regions account for the vast majority of new cases announced Monday, with 210 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 737 in the Fraser Health region.

Henry has strongly recommended that travel in and out of the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions be limited to essential trips only.

Businesses and recreation centres that operate indoor group physical activities — like spin classes, yoga, and exercise classes — have been told to suspend these activities.

However, Henry is also reiterating a message she has shared again and again since the beginning of B.C.’s COVID-19 outbreak — while the virus spreads easily indoors, it is safe to be outside. She urged people to go for a walk, even a walk with a friend, if you keep them at a safe distance.

B.C. Premier John Horgan on Monday urged the population to tighten up on their social interactions as cases of COVID-19 explode across the Lower Mainland, saying if the numbers don’t improve, the province could have to return to the peak restrictions seen in March.

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