Island Health urges people not to travel, gather indoors in PSA ahead of long weekend

Island Health urges people not to travel, gather indoors in PSA ahead of long weekend
CHEK News file

Island Health has put out a public service announcement ahead of the Easter long weekend, urging people to avoid high-risk activities and follow public health orders.

“We acknowledge the global pandemic continues to be an extremely challenging experience for so many and people are understandably experiencing COVID fatigue,” the PSA reads.

“However, with daily case counts at current levels and the growing prevalence of variants of concern on Vancouver Island, we cannot afford to let our guard down and undo the progress we have collectively made.”

On Thursday, the province reported 832 new cases of COVID-19, 53 of those on the Island.

Island Health pointed to some concerning trends recently, including the presence of all three variants on Vancouver Island. The number of presumptive variant cases within the health authority has more than tripled recently. These variants are more easily transmissible, Island Health said in the PSA, and can lead to more severe illness.

The health authority is also urging people not to travel or gather indoors during the upcoming long weekend and religious holidays that normally bring friends and family together.

There has been a significant increase in the number of close contacts to COVID-19 cases coming from non-essential travel, large social gatherings and having multiple social groups.

Contact tracing has confirmed the variants have been brought to Vancouver Island through non-essential travel.

Island Health is also reporting an increase in people with symptoms attending work and social events.

Throughout March 2021, more than 60 per cent of cases in Island Health have been linked to a known cluster, majority of which can be traced to an indoor gathering.

“Indoor gatherings with people outside your immediate household present an unacceptable risk at this time,” Island Health said. “We know that social connection with family and friends is critical to people’s well-being, and there are many safe ways to maintain these connections.”

This includes outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, biking, golfing, canoeing or having an Easter egg hunt.

Choose the same 10 friends or family members to gather with outdoors, Island Health said.

In March 2021, people aged 19-30 represented 45 per cent of all cases within Island Health. About 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases this month were unable to identify where they got the virus.

The average age of people with COVID-19 admitted to hospital has dropped to 55.7 years so far this year. In 2020, that number was 68.6 years.

More than 16 per cent of the population on Vancouver Island have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Island Health is encouraging people to wash their hands often, wear a mask in public settings, not travel unless it is essential and stay home and get tested if you have any symptoms.

“While the end is in sight, it is too early to let our guards down,” Island Health wrote in the PSA.

“Let’s all continue to do our part to protect our families, loved ones, friends and our communities. Making exceptions and bending the rules gives the virus the edge and will make it that much harder to get to the brighter days ahead. Let’s all do our part and be COVID smart!”

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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