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B.C. Premier John Horgan expressed his gratitude to health-care workers on Wednesday after protests outside some hospitals in the province.

The provincial government will require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 later this month from residents participating in non-essential activities, such as visiting restaurants, gyms and movie theatres.

Demonstration against the government’s approach on COVID-19 outside hospitals caused Horgan to issue a statement in support of health-care workers.

“Health-care workers have been true heroes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, working long hours in difficult conditions to care for us, our loved ones and to keep our communities safe,” he said in the statement.

“While everyone has the right to peaceful protest, the targeting and harassment of health-care workers at health-care facilities today is completely unacceptable.”

Horgan said the intent of COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions since the start of the pandemic has been to keep people healthy and that remains the province’s top priority.

In Vancouver, police advised motorists on Wednesday afternoon to avoid an area around city hall and the Vancouver General Hospital because of the size of a protest.

On Twitter, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart told protesters to “go the hell home” as he expressed his pride at the city’s vaccination rate, with more than 90 per cent of those eligible having received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“So when I see folks blocking health-care workers who are working flat out to save people dying of COVID, it makes me sick.”

Kathy MacNeil, president and CEO of the Island Health authority, said some workers at health-care facilities were verbally abused as they came to and from work, and at least one staff member was physically assaulted.

“I am proud my country supports the democratic right to peaceful protest. However, some of today’s protests disrupted safe access to health-care facilities,” she said in a statement. "

“Our health-care teams deserve respect and support, no matter what personal beliefs we hold.”

British Columbia reported 785 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday as the number of people being treated in intensive care units climbed. The province said 199 people were in hospital and 112 of them were in ICU.

Two more people have died of the virus, for a total of 1,818 deaths.

The Interior Health region had 2,299 active cases, compared with 1,504 cases in Fraser Health, the province’s largest region and previously the epicentre of the pandemic in B.C.

Modelling of projected cases presented by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry this week suggests the number of daily cases in B.C. could pass 1,000 by the end of the month.

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