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British Columbia’s top doctor has extended an order requiring students living in post-secondary residences to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof.

A statement from the Health Ministry says the order by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry helps reduce transmission in a high-risk setting and is in effect until June 30.

The province also says it is preparing to distribute COVID-19 rapid tests to the public, starting with seniors, and more details would be coming next week.

Also Friday, the Interior Health authority says it’s taking a phased approach to resuming services that were paused last month, including rescheduling postponed surgeries and reopening in-patient services in several communities.

A statement from president Susan Brown says the impacts of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 on staffing in the region’s health-care system are beginning to subside.

Brown says staffing isn’t stable enough to safely restore all services next week, but the health authority will begin rescheduling procedures by Wednesday and aims to clear the backlog as quickly as possible.

Interior Health says in-patient services will reopen on Wednesday in Clearwater, where one new registered nurse has been recruited, while nurse-provided primary care services will return to normal on the same day at the Barriere and District Health Centre.

In-patient services are also set to reopen March 14 in Lillooet with two new nurses.

Overnight services at the Ashcroft Community Health Centre and the Slocan Community Health Centre in New Denver remain temporarily reduced to stabilize daytime services in those communities, the health authority says.

Health Minister Adrian Dix told a news conference this week that the proportion of health-care workers calling in sick was higher in the Interior Health region, which accounted for about two-thirds of all the non-urgent cancelled surgeries in B.C.

“But most everywhere else, we’re going to be aggressively moving to rebook surgeries in the coming weeks because people need their surgeries,” Dix said.

“And even if we describe these as non-urgent scheduled surgeries, they’re all important, they’re all necessary.”

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in B.C. continued its gradual decline with 733 patients on Friday, down from 744 the day before.

Five more people have died, for a total of 2,786 fatalities linked to COVID-19.

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