New COVID-19 outbreak identified at frozen fruit plant in Abbotsford, B.C.

SURREY, B.C. — A new COVID-19 outbreak has been identified at a frozen fruit processing plant in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Fraser Health announced late Friday that five employees at Nature’s Touch have tested positive for the virus and case and contact management is ongoing.

The news came after B.C. announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 2,507.

Officials say three more people have died, bringing the provincial death toll to 155.

About four out of five people infected since the novel coronavirus was first identified in the province have recovered and B.C. officials say there are 310 active cases.

Fraser Health says it has inspected the fruit processing plant and is working to ensure the safety of all employees.

“All close contacts of the employees who tested positive are being followed and Nature’s Touch has voluntarily closed the facility until Monday,” the regional health authority says in a statement.

B.C. officials say an outbreak at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver that has been ongoing for a month has been declared over and no new health-care outbreaks have been identified.

The province recently entered a new phase of its pandemic response with several businesses resuming or preparing to restart operations.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say this phase is about moving slowly, with patience and care.

“We are finding our new balance between protecting our health and reopening many of the businesses and activities that are important to all of us,” Dix and Henry say in the joint statement.

“Phase 2 of B.C.’s restart plan is about pausing before moving forward being thoughtful and cautious to keep everyone safe, while COVID-19 remains in our communities.”

Mass gatherings remain restricted to no more than 50 people and the order has been amended to apply to drive-in events.

No more than 50 vehicles are allowed at a drive-in and there’s also a restriction on the sale of refreshments.

Anyone attending such events must stay in their cars unless they have to go to the washroom, which must be serviced with running water for proper hand hygiene, the statement says.

Dix and Henry say they’ve received an “outstanding” response to an online survey about B.C.’s response to the pandemic, with 275,000 people participating.

They urged others take part in the survey.

“There are still many questions that we need to answer and understand, including the impacts of the measures that we have taken to control COVID-19 in B.C. and flatten the curve,” they say.

The survey also gauges interest in participating in further studies, including a blood test to determine immunity from COVID-19.

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