VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s top doctor says the province may not advance as expected to the next step in its COVID-19 restart plan as case counts surge in the Interior Health region.

As provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was announcing tighter restrictions to cover all of the Interior Health region, she said it won’t be a surprise if the province doesn’t advance to Step 4 in September.

Henry announced restrictions currently in place in the central Okanagan, such as mandatory mask wearing and reduced limits on indoor and outdoor events, will be expanded across the region in an effort to limit the rise in COVID-19 cases.The province has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with many occurring in the Interior Health region, which Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix attributed to lower vaccination rates.

Henry says the displacement of many residents because of the wildfires has made containing COVID-19 especially challenging.

She says the larger caseload is placing too much pressure on local health services, prompting them to widen the safety measures to the entire region.

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