New restrictions for British Columbia's northern health region are being put in place in an attempt to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 through those who are unvaccinated.

Personal gatherings indoors and outdoors are restricted to only those who are vaccinated and in-person worship services are cancelled.

Indoor organized events are capped at 50 people, while 100 can gather for outdoor events. Social gatherings have a cap of five for indoor and 25 for outdoor.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference on Thursday that the restrictions will continue until Nov. 19 at midnight.

"These measures are to stop transmission and save lives," she said. "These are not orders to be gamed or to be got around, to try and flout the rules because you don't think they apply to you. These are your community members, your family members, our family members."

Henry said the Delta variant spreads faster and causes more severe illness, which is being seen in the north, where hospitals are filling with young people who are struggling to breathe.

"We are in a very different situation than we were in a few months ago," she said.

One person in their 20s died in the northern health region on Thursday, she added.

Henry also acknowledged that vaccination rates vary across the north, with local health areas west of Kitwanga, B.C., largely exempt from the new restrictions due to their high vaccination rates. Those areas include Terrace, Kitimat and the Stikine region.

Top doctor brings in more rules for northern #BC as COVID spreads. #BCPoli #Covid19

Health Minister Adrian Dix said it's frustrating for those in health care to see people in hospital with severe illness that could have been prevented through vaccination.

He said 45 of the 58 critically ill people recently flown to hospitals in southern B.C. for treatment had COVID-19. Only one of those being treated for COVID-19 was fully vaccinated.

"We are all in. We have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink, and the kitchen sink went in a week ago. We are doing everything we can to support the north," Dix said.

B.C. reported another 580 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and nine more deaths, bringing the death toll to 2,042.

The vaccination rate for a single dose for all those eligible has reached 89 per cent, while 82.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

There are 378 people in hospital, with 153 of them in intensive care wards.

— By Nick Wells in Vancouver

The report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 14, 2021.

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