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Premier marks anniversary of first case of COVID-19 in Canada: 'We must remain vigilant'

B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain
Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization plan on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. PROVINCE OF B.C.

Today’s anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Canada is a fitting time to honour the more than 1,000 people who have died from the virus in B.C., Premier John Horgan said Monday.

The first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Canada was announced on Jan. 25, 2020, with B.C.’s first lab-confirmed case coming later that same week. As of Friday, the province had confirmed 63,484 cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Officials are expected to release updated case numbers at 3 p.m. today.

“COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down,” Horgan said.

“While the end of the pandemic is in sight, thanks to the availability of vaccines, the threat is not over. We must remain vigilant.”

He said the anniversary is an appropriate time to commemorate the more than 1,000 B.C. residents who have died of COVID-19 and acknowledge the countless efforts and sacrifices people have made to take care of others.

“Today, we recommit ourselves to protecting people’s health and livelihoods from the threat of COVID-19, knowing that better days are ahead.”

While the number of new cases of COVID-19 is trending downward, the threat of more transmissions is not over. The premier and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are asking people to remain vigilant in physically distancing from others — wearing masks, following a no-gathering order, and exercising patience while vaccinations roll out.

Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three.

The latest situation report posted Friday by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control also shows six cases of the strain first found in the United Kingdom.

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the first person diagnosed with the South African strain in B.C. had neither travelled nor had contact with anyone who did, which is concerning.

Each case of the U.K. variant has so far been linked to travel.

The province on Friday rolled out a mass vaccination plan that largely prioritizes people by age — starting with B.C. residents 80 years and older and working backwards in five-year increments. More than 110,566 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., and at least 2,200 of those are second doses.

Active outbreaks have been reported at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo, and the Cowichan Tribes has extended its shelter-in-place order to Feb. 5 after seeing cases on the reserve.

There have been exposures at several Island schools this month. The most recent are Woodwinds PASS Alternate School in Parksville, which had potential exposures on Jan. 20-22, and Shawnigan Lake School in Shawnigan Lake, with possible exposures on Jan. 18-20.

— With a file from The Canadian Press