VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s public health order severely limiting social interactions has been extended past the holiday season and into early January.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the news at her COVID-19 briefing on Monday, in a move that was widely anticipated given British Columbia's continuing surge in active cases.

Henry noted that the seven-day average for new coronavirus cases has been "levelling off" in recent days, but said there's still much work to be done to bend the province's curve.

"The measures we have put in place are starting to have an effect and starting to work," she said. "What you are doing every day is making a difference, but we are not yet through this storm and we cannot let up now. All around us, and in every community, this virus continues to circulate."

B.C. has seen an average of just over 700 new cases per day over the last week, which pushed the province's active caseload to a record of 9,380 on Monday.

No big Christmas dinners

Henry said the restrictions announced on Dec. 4 – which require people to only socialize with members of their own household unless they live alone, in which case they are allowed to create a bubble of up to two people – will continue until midnight on Jan. 8.

She acknowledged this will have a major impact on the way many people celebrate the holidays, but encouraged B.C. residents to look for ways to stay in touch and be festive while keeping each other safe.

"We can still connect with family and with friends in a safe and virtual way," she said. "As hard as this may be, let's remember that the sacrifices we make now will protect our loved ones and countless others throughout the province and will keep our strained health care system open and functioning for all of us."

Henry specified clearly that the new rules mean no one should be holding big Christmas dinners this year with extended family members. The same rules about sticking to one's household, or a select bubble for those who live alone, will continue on Christmas Day.

"If you're used to having multiple family members come and go over Christmas and getting together and having those large dinners together, now you need to do it remotely," she added.

Though the news was surely disappointing for many in B.C., Henry noted there have been hopeful developments on the vaccine front. The province is set to receive its first doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week.

More details on B.C.'s vaccine rollout plan are expected to be shared at a briefing with Henry, Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix in the coming days.

Other restrictions extended

B.C.'s ban on public gatherings and events was also extended to Jan. 8, though health officials have added an exception allowing for drive-thru and drive-in events that people can attend provided they remain in their own car. Attendees should only go with members of their household, Henry said.

Prohibitions on adult team sports, both indoor and outdoor, also remain in effect, as do the restrictions on group physical fitness activities.

Henry said some of the latter maybe able to operate "once we've issued further orders and guidelines about how to do these safely in the new context that we're living in."

Child and youth sports can continue under the current restrictions, which include a ban on team travel.

The extended restrictions were announced after Henry revealed another 2020 cases of COVID-19 were identified from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon, pushing B.C.'s active cases to a new record high of 9,380.

Thirty-five people died from the disease over the same period, putting the provincial death toll at 527.