The identity of a person who died in a fire in a Surrey basement suite is not yet known. Firefighters from Delta and Surrey responded and pulled a person from the residence after the early-morning blaze yesterday. The fire was reported shortly before 6 a.m. Monday at a building near 117B Street and 96 Avenue. Firefighters say four people who lived upstairs in the two-level home were able to get out, but a man in the basement did not survive. There is significant damage to the suite and smoke damage to those above, but a produce store is believed to be intact. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

 

The daily COVID-19 case count in B.C. remains high, with 999 new infections between Saturday and Sunday, and another 890 between Sunday and Monday. On Saturday, the province reported record-high numbers, with 2,090 people testing positive for the virus in the previous two days. On Monday, the province, said they have since been confirmed to be even higher, with 2,151 infections in that time period. There have been 23 COVID-19 related deaths in the past four days, averaging about six people per day. More than 300 people are hospitalized, including 96 in the ICU.

 

Cases of a COVID-19 variant associated with Brazil have multiplied exponentially in B.C., with 737 infections of the strain that is believed to be more contagious than two others. There were only 14 cases of the P1 variant on March 10th, but quick transmission recently forced the closure of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort and is also present in other areas. The variant associated with the United Kingdom now represents two thousand and 771 cases while 51 cases of the one linked to South Africa have been diagnosed among a total of three thousand and 559 cases in the province. Health Minister Adrian Dix says he expects variants of concern to eventually replace less transmissible strains, similar to what’s happening in other jurisdictions

Despite concerns from some parents amid rising COVID-19 case counts in B.C., the Ministry of Education says schools are the best place for students to learn right now. According to the ministry, in-person learning offers a range of benefits — not only to a child’s education, but also for their emotional and social well being. It adds it will continue to work with local health authorities, medical health officers, and the province’s education steering community to determine what steps need to be taken to maintain safety within schools in B.C. In late March, the province announced all students in Grades 4 to 12 would be required to wear a mask while in school. This was a change from the previous mandate, which required middle and high school students to wear face coverings indoors. All teachers and staff from K-12 are required to wear a mask at school. Mask use continues to be recommended for students in K-3, but is not required. There are exemptions to B.C.’s mask mandate.

British Columbia’s online booking system for COVID-19 vaccines is expected to begin at 8 a.m. today. It’s being launched alongside a parallel program for Lower Mainland residents between the ages of 55 and 65 who can register for a shot through pharmacies. The provincewide online system comes as B-C sees a spike in cases, with a record of one thousand 77 infections on Saturday.
There’s also been a jump in variants of concern, which now total three thousand 559 cases, with a big uptick in the variant first identified in Brazil.
The City of Vancouver says it has suspended the licenses of two  restaurants for defying tighter COVID-19 restrictions announced last week. The city says it took the step after Vancouver Coastal Health issued closure orders for Gusto and Corduroy Lounge for failing to comply with public health orders banning inside dining. The suspensions will remain in place until April 20th after a three-week “circuit breaker” aimed at addressing a third wave of COVID-19 is set to expire. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says in a statement that the entire country was aghast at the behavior of the restaurant owners in the face of rising case counts and the spread of variants

BC is reporting 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also announced 207 new cases of variants of concern — bringing the total to 3,766. Henry says the U-K strain is the most dominant but there are also rising cases of the variant first identified in Brazil. She says the U-K variant now accounts for about a third of cases in B-C and she expects the province is about a month behind Ontario, where the strain accounts for 60 per cent of new cases.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says he will ask council to back a motion supporting farmers in India. A statement from McCallum says he stands in solidarity with Indian farmers who have been protesting legislation they fear will hurt crop sales and cut wages. McCallum says the farmers have direct ties with many Surrey residents and it’s “timely and fitting” that council support the cause. The statement says McCallum will introduce his motion at Monday’s council meeting.

The new, online portal allowing British Columbians to register for their COVID-19 vaccination launched this morning without any obvious issues. The site went live at 8 a.m., letting people over 18 sign up and in turn they would get a number to use when they are alerted their age group is eligible for vaccination. Those born in 1950 or earlier, Indigenous people 18 and older, and those with certain medical conditions will be able to book an appointment today. During a news conference yesterday, Health Minister Adrian Dix expressed confidence about the online launch, saying the site had held up well during extensive testing over the last several weeks.

Despite concerns from European health officials, the World Health Organization is reaffirming its trust in the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The W-H-O issued a statement today saying at this point, there is no evidence for a change to the vaccine’s benefit-risk assessment. The statement follows reports that the head of vaccine strategy for the European Medicines Agency says it is increasingly difficult to say there is “no cause-and-effect relationship” between the vaccine and rare cases of unusual blood clots.

A new website has been launched by the City of Surrey to help parents and caregivers build a barrier between children and gang involvement. The city says the Empower Surrey website is meant to enhance the Surrey Anti-Gang Family Empowerment Program. The site is available in over 80 languages and gives tips on how to identify risk factors along with tips and tools to start early conversations with youth about gangs. The website was developed with information from more than 100 Surrey youth aged 14 to 19 who offered insights and feedback about what they face at school, home and in the community.