VANCOUVER -- British Columbia has declared a public health emergency after recording three more deaths related to COVID-19 and identifying another 83 infections.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said two of the new fatalities are connected to the continuing outbreak at a North Vancouver care home where four seniors previously died.

The third is a man in his 80s who lives east of Vancouver, in the Fraser Health region that spans from Burnaby to Hope.

Those deaths and the alarming jump in cases – the largest single day increase recorded anywhere in Canada so far – helped convince the government it was time to declare a provincial emergency.

“We’ve taken a number of unprecedented measures in the last few days,” Dr. Henry said. “This declaration of an emergency allows me to be faster, more streamlined and nimble in the things we need to do right now.”

The province has already banned gatherings of more than 50 people, closed public schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 indefinitely, and postponed non-urgent surgeries in an attempt to curtail the spread of the virus and ensure health care resources are available when needed most.

Shortly after delcaring the emergency, Henry issued an order for bars and clubs to temporarily close down.

The provincial health officer stressed the need for social distancing – keeping people one or two metres away from each other as often as possible – and said certain establishments just aren’t able to comply.

“Bars and clubs, in my opinion, are not able to meet our test for physical distancing and therefor must close,” Henry said. “Restaurants and cafes, in some cases, can meet this criteria for physical distancing, but those who cannot maintain the physical distancing will need to close or to move to takeout and delivery services.”

In Vancouver, bars and restaurants had already been ordered to remain closed to the public Tuesday in order to prevent people from gathering for St. Patrick’s Day.

The rationale behind social distancing is grounded in the way COVID-19 is most commonly known to spread: through tiny droplets that people emit when they cough or sneeze.

Those droplets can fly for a couple metres, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, and potentially end up in the mouths, eyes or noses or the uninfected.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other business that people rely on aren't being shut down, but officials asked that people try to maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping in them.

Tuesday’s announcement brings the total number of COVID-19 cases identified in B.C. to 186, and the total across Canada to 598.

There have been eight deaths nationwide. The only fatality recorded outside British Columbia so far is a 77-year-old Ontario man who was suspected, but not yet confirmed, to be carrying the virus when he died.

Dr. Henry acknowledged the news this week has been troubling but noted the new infections being discovered happened up to two weeks ago, before there were as many orders and restrictions in place. The coronavirus is currently believed to have an incubation period of up to 14 days.

She urged the public to think about what they want to see in two weeks and act accordingly.

“We do wish things could have been different, but we can’t change those things,” she said. “We need to think about now.”