VICTORIA -- Health officials identified 45 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Thursday, the highest number of new cases in the region in over a month.

The new cases were among 800 coronavirus cases found across the province over the past 24 hours, bringing B.C.’s total to 94,769 cases since the pandemic began.

The 45 new cases announced on Vancouver Island represents the highest daily case count for the region since an all-time high of 46 cases was set on Jan. 20 and tied on Feb. 19.

Officials have now recorded 3,039 cases of COVID-19 in the island region since the pandemic began.

Five more people in B.C died from the disease Thursday, bringing B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,446. None of the deaths announced Thursday were in the Vancouver Island region, where the pandemic has killed 28 people.

There are currently 279 active cases in the island region, including 15 people in hospital and one in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 233 active cases on Thursday, including 105 in the South Island, 109 in the Central Island and 19 in the North Island.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that the recent spike in new cases is being driven by young people, aged 19 to 39.

“This tells us some people are taking on more risk for themselves and their loved ones than what is safe right now,” Dix and Henry said in a statement.

“We remind everyone that although some outside activities are allowed, we must keep going with our protective layers,” the pair said. “Until everyone has been protected with immunization, our protective layers must be the first and last thing we think about – whether at home, work, school or elsewhere.” 

Officials confirmed 191 new COVID-19 variant cases in B.C. on Thursday, for a total of 1,772 variant cases recorded in the province. Approximately 215 variant cases are now active in B.C.

Health officials have now administered 610,671 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in B.C., including 87,212 secondary doses.

Earlier on Thursday, Henry and Dix announced a temporary allowance for indoor religious services starting March 28, as well as updated rules on care home visits.

“We know our seniors and Elders – especially those residing in long-term care – have carried a disproportionate burden facing higher risks, combined with the isolation required to stay safe,” said Dix and Henry in a statement Thursday. “Recognizing the majority of seniors and Elders in long-term care are vaccinated, starting on April 1, the visitor restrictions will be eased.”