COVID-related limits to last at least another month

The restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus will last until at least the end of April, B.C. health minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday.

"What it looks like in May or June or July is harder to say and a lot of it depends on whether people are committed - and I think they are and I think we've seen that - to responding with a 100% effort to bend the curve," Dix said during the daily press conference.

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Reports from other provinces are suggesting measures will remain in place until the end of June.

As of Tuesday, the number of people in B.C. who have tested positive for COVID-19 stood at 1,013, an increase of 43 from the day before.

The increase includes one in Northern Health, raising the total in the region to 15. As of Tuesday, five of them have fully recovered.

For the province as a whole, 507 - or 50 per cent of those who have been afflicted - have fully recovered but five more deaths were recorded - four in Vancouver Coastal and one in Fraser Health - pushing the total up to 24.

Of the 482 who remain afflicted, 128 are hospitalized and 61 of them are in intensive care.

Public health officer Bonnie Henry said some form of monitoring will remain in place until there is a vaccine which officials have said could take a year to 18 months, or until enough of the population is immune to it and no one is getting infected, "but that is a very high number."

"I do think it's more and more less likely that we're going to be able to get back to full normal life - which I miss a lot - before at least the summer and then we need to start preparing ourselves for the potential of a second wave in the fall," Henry said. "In the meantime, we need to put every possible effort into the development of a vaccine."

Dix said 61% of acute care and 54% of critical care beds in B.C. are filled at the moment, which he credited to delaying elective surgeries and the measures to prevent the virus' spread now in place. Hospitals are usually over capacity at this time due to the flu season.

Henry reiterated comments made Monday that the province is entering a critical time in its campaign to contain the virus as B.C. enters a second two-week incubation period and urged the public to avoid unnecessary travel, stay at home as much as possible and stay apart when out in public.

"We know that most of us are doing the right thing 100% of the time," she said. "No one is immune to this virus but everyone can make a difference so we need you to do those things that we've talked about."

Henry said the province is now up to 19 care home or assisted living facilities, all in Vancouver Coastal Health or Vancouver Island Health, where there have been outbreaks. However, Henry said the threshold for declaring an outbreak is low and the vast majority have just a single person, either a staff or resident, with the illness.

She also said Interior Health is investigating B.C.'s first large community outbreak. It involves temporary foreign workers at a nursery in West Kelowna and all are now quarantined in housing on the site.

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