VICTORIA -- Health officials identified 31 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Wednesday.

The new cases were among 542 cases found across B.C. over the past 24 hours, for a total of 81,909 cases in the province since the pandemic began.

Seven more people have died of the disease in B.C. since Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 1,372. None of the deaths announced Wednesday were on Vancouver Island.

Health officials have now identified 2,454 cases of COVID-19 in the Island Health region since the pandemic began.

There are now 326 active cases on Vancouver Island, including 16 people in hospital and one person in critical care.

Twenty-six people have died of COVID-19 in the health authority since the pandemic began, while 2,099 have recovered.

Island Health published the locations of 270 active cases on Wednesday, including 161 in the Central Island, 68 in the North Island and 41 in the South Island.

There were 18 new COVID-19 variant cases confirmed Wednesday, for a total of 200 cases in B.C. that are now considered variants of concern. Of those variant cases, 11 are active and the remaining people have recovered.

Public health officers have administered 289,809 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in B.C., including 86,616 secondary doses.

CTV News has published the full list of COVID-19 vaccine sites on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

“Our goal is to protect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, through the available COVID-19 vaccines,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a statement Wednesday.

“With a single primer dose, these vaccines are helping to stop outbreaks and reduce serious illness and death,” they added.

The health officials addressed their controversial decision earlier this week to allow up to four months between first and second vaccine doses, noting that the longer lag time was endorsed by health officials nationwide on Wednesday.

“Setting the second booster dose at 16 weeks allows us to expand the number of people who will have access to these safe and effective vaccines, and may provide more durable and longer lasting protection,” Dix and Henry said.

“We are pleased to see that today, the National Advisory Council on Immunization, as well as Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, have endorsed this approach.”

The health officials said getting the maximum number of people vaccinated – “whether in Nanaimo, Nelson or North Vancouver – makes all of us safer.”