VICTORIA -- Forty-four more cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the Island Health region over the past five days, health officials announced Tuesday.

In total, 76 cases of the virus are considered active on Vancouver Island. The majority of the region’s active cases, 41, are located in the South Island. Meanwhile, 19 are active in the Central Island while 16 are considered active in the North Island.

Across B.C., 2,206 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since Christmas Eve.

Health officials say that a staggering 74 more people have died of COVID-19 over the same period, bringing B.C.’s death toll to 882.

“Our condolences go out to all of the families who are mourning a loss, to care providers and to our communities who have lost loved ones,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We mourn with you,” she said, as she acknowledged the difficulty of losing a loved one during the holidays and amid the pandemic.

There are currently seven people in hospital for treatment of the virus in the Island Health region, as well as two people currently in critical care. None of the recent deaths were located in the health authority.

Since the pandemic began, the Island Health region has recorded a total of 901 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19 U.K. variant in B.C.

B.C.’s top doctor spoke on the province’s discovery of the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 U.K. variant in British Columbia over the weekend.

One person who recently travelled to the U.K. and who returned to their home on Vancouver Island tested positive for the variant of the virus.

“So far this is the first case that has shown up,” said Henry on Tuesday.

She added that the variant “does not seem to cause a more severe illness” or impact the effectiveness of current vaccines.

However, she said that the COVID-19 U.K. variant does appear to cause “the virus to be more infectious,” making it easier to spread.

With a potentially more contagious variant of the virus appearing in other countries around the world, Henry encouraged everyone to be particularly conscious of health measures – such as regular handwashing, staying home if feeling unwell, staying in isolation if directed to do so and avoiding social gatherings.

“Every time we stay home we save lives, and that is critical right now,” she said. 

As of Tuesday, 11,930 COVID-19 doses had been administered in British Columbia. Of those doses, two people had allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine. Both were treated onsite and have since recovered.