VICTORIA -- B.C. health officials identified 142 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Monday.

The new cases were among 2,518 new cases found across the province over the past three days. On Saturday, 936 new cases were added; on Sunday, 805 were confirmed; and on Monday, 774 cases were reported.

Six more people have died of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the province's death toll to 1,455. One death was reported in the island region, where the virus has now claimed 29 lives since the pandemic began.

There are now 368 active cases of COVID-19 in the Island Health region, including 12 people who are in hospital for treatment, and one person in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 333 of the active cases Monday. There are 168 active cases in the South Island, 142 in the Central Island and 23 in the North Island.

New restrictions

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced several new health restrictions. The restrictions will be in effect starting midnight until April 19.

Restaurants and bars that serve meals can no longer host indoor dining over the next three weeks. Restaurant patios are allowed to remain open, however, and eateries can continue to offer take out or delivery options.

Meanwhile, all indoor group fitness activities are suspended. Group classes and programs are suspended until April 19, though individuals can still visit gyms, and one-on-one programs are still permitted.

B.C.'s top doctor adds that indoor religious services, which were previously allowed to temporarily host indoor services this spring, will no longer be able to hold indoor ceremonies.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce this," said Henry.

Outdoor religious services are still allowed to operate, according to B.C.'s top doctor.

Health officials say that the new restrictions are being announced as COVID-19 transmission is rising rapidly across the province.

"Over the last six days, we've seen the start of exponential growth in new cases," said Henry, adding that there has also been an increase in hospitalizations and admittance to the ICU.

"A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmission in our province," she said.

The province will also be updating health guidelines in schools. Students in Grade 4 and up will now be encouraged to wear masks while at school.

B.C. Premier John Horgan joined Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix for Monday's announcement.

Horgan echoed Henry's concerns and urged everyone to limit their social contacts and follow provincial health guidelines, particularly younger British Columbians.

"The cohort from 20 to 39 (years old) are not paying as much attention to these broadcasts and are putting us all at risk," he said.

"Do not blow this for the rest of us," Horgan added.

Health officials note that outdoor social gatherings of up to 10 are still permitted, though officials stress that the group of 10 must be consistent.

B.C.'s top doctor says that outdoor gatherings are still allowed while new indoor restrictions are being implemented because indoor interactions significantly increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.

AstraZeneca vaccine concerns

B.C. is suspending the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people under the age of 55 for the next few days, a move that is being carried out across Canada.

The suspension comes as health concerns have recently been reported in Europe, though B.C.'s top doctor says the rate of negative side effects has been very rare worldwide.

Out of the tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines that have been administered, less than 30 people have developed a serious side effect, according to health officials.

Henry says it is unlikely that the vaccine will cause a serious issue in B.C. or across Canada. However, every jurisdiction in the country is suspending the use of the vaccine on younger people until a report can be completed. The report is expected in two to three days, Henry estimates.

She notes that the AstraZeneca vaccine does not impact the rollout of the province's age-based immunization program, which was designed with only the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in mind.