VICTORIA -- Health officials identified 39 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Tuesday.

The new coronavirus cases were among 840 cases found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.’s total to 99,035 cases since the pandemic began.

Officials have now recorded 3,277 cases of COVID-19 in the island region since the pandemic began.

There are now 389 active cases in the Vancouver Island region, including 13 people in hospital and one in critical care, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Twenty-nine people in the region have died since the pandemic began.

Island Health revealed the locations of 339 active cases in the island region Tuesday, including 170 in the South Island, 144 in the Central Island and 25 in the North Island. 

There were no deaths related to the disease reported in B.C. on Tuesday, leaving the province’s COVID-19 death toll at 1,455.

Officials confirmed 320 new COVID-19 variant cases in B.C. on Tuesday for a total of 2,553 variant cases recorded in the province. Approximately 313 variant cases are now active in B.C.

“We have seen the start of exponential growth of COVID-19 cases,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix warned on Tuesday. “To stop this upward trend from continuing, we are taking the necessary steps to protect our communities and get back on the path we want and need to be on.”

The health officials are asking British Columbians to avoid all leisure travel outside of their home communities, saying “the risk for all of us is too great right now.”

That warning extends to religious gatherings and family celebrations around the upcoming spring holidays, Dix and Henry said.

“We understand that the upcoming important religious holidays are often a time when we would normally get together with others to celebrate,” the pair said in a statement. “This year, we need to ensure we are celebrating safely, which means not travelling to other communities and postponing those family dinners until it is safe to be together indoors again.”

Health officials have now administered 724,193 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in B.C., including 87,319 secondary doses.

“Vaccine appointment bookings for age-based immunizations are now open for people 73 or older in all health authorities, and Indigenous peoples over 18,” Henry and Dix reminded British Columbians.

“Individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable and have received a letter identifying them as such are also able to book appointments.”