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B.C. health officials urge people to avoid New Year gatherings

VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are urging people to avoid gatherings in celebration of New Year's Eve.

VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are urging people to avoid gatherings in celebration of New Year's Eve.

The request comes as the province released five days of COVID-19 figures over the holiday season on Tuesday, showing 2,206 new cases for a total of 50,815 infections since the pandemic began.

The province also reported 74 deaths from the virus, largely among those living in long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said people need to follow public health orders as she issued a reminder ahead of New Year's Eve that social gatherings are not allowed.

"We need to make our entire holiday season a quiet holiday season, including the upcoming New Year's," she said.

That's the case particularly in light of the recent discovery by officials with the Island Health Authority of a COVID-19 variant that originated in the U.K., Henry added.

"This virus is even more infectious, potentially, with this variant. So it means we have to be even more adherent (to public health orders)," she said.

Henry said there were lower COVID-19 numbers over the holiday period partly because fewer people wanted to be tested and potentially have to go into quarantine.

"We expect testing to go up this week and it is likely that we will see more cases."

It takes five to seven days on average for symptoms to show up, which means people who contracted the virus during Christmas gatherings would start getting symptoms in the coming days, Henry said.

Almost 12,000 people have been vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, she said.

Two health-care workers had allergic reactions to the vaccine, which Henry said wasn't out of the ordinary. Both people were treated and have recovered.

She said doses of the Moderna vaccine have arrived in the province and more will be coming in the next few days.

The province's vaccination program is focused on protecting those most at risk, such as seniors and workers in long-term care, as well as key health-care workers, Henry said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is "fussy", she said, needing more training for front-line workers who administer it.

The plan is for the Moderna vaccine to go to remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2020.

The Canadian Press