British Columbia has placed a moratorium on new mink farms and capped existing farms at their current numbers after two more of the animals tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Agriculture Ministry says each farm is required to report the total number of mink to the provincial health officer and the medical health officer in their regional health authority.

The new provincial health order comes after two mink tested positive for the virus on a farm that's been under quarantine and samples from five more of the animals from the same farm tested positive at B.C.'s animal health lab with final results pending from a national lab in Winnipeg.

It says the mink that tested positive were identified through a provincial surveillance project that aims to assess the potential for virus transmission to "free-ranging" animals.

The ministry says in a statement that in this instance, four mink had escaped their cages and were captured on the farm.

It says the province is reviewing its policies related to fur farms while ensuring biosecurity measures are in place to protect both the public and animal health.

Three out of nine mink farms in B.C. have seen mink test positive for the virus since last December, the ministry says. The farms remain under quarantine, with no mink being moved to or from the properties, which are all located in the Fraser Valley.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.