VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has recorded another 521 cases of COVID-19 and eight related deaths, health officials announced Wednesday.

There have now been 140,596 coronavirus infections and 1,658 related deaths in the province since the start of the pandemic.

In a joint written statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered their condolences to "the family, friends and caregivers of the people have died as a result of COVID-19."

While the average number of new cases identified in B.C. daily remains high, it has decreased significantly since reaching a provincial high of 1,130 on April 12.

An average of 482 cases have been recorded daily over the past week, which is the lowest seven-day average since March 2.

The number of active cases has also fallen to 4,815, less than half of the B.C. record of 10,081 recorded on April 16.

The number of patients in hospital has also been dropping. There are now 340 people battling COVID-19 in hospital – down from 360 on Tuesday – with 118 patients in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the province's immunization program has been continuing at an accelerated pace. Another 56,971 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since the last update, bringing the provincial total to 2,624,907 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

That includes 2,488,661 first doses, which is enough to cover about 48 per cent of B.C.'s total population, and 135,246 second doses.

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Dix confirmed that young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccine. They can then book an appointment once they receive a notification from the government, Dix said.

More details on the province's plans for vaccinating young people are expected to be announced at a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday.

"If you have yet to book your first dose of vaccine, go online today and join the millions of people who have received their vaccine or booked their appointment for the coming days," Henry and Dix said in a statement.

"Help us put the pandemic behind us by staying small and local, and ensuring you are registered and booked for your vaccine today."