VANCOUVER -- The City of Vancouver says a recent spike of overdose deaths is a reminder that there are two ongoing public health emergencies.

The city says in a statement that police responded to eight suspected overdose deaths last week, the highest number since last August and in contrast to a decline in overdose deaths over the past year.

The deaths come as Vancouver Coastal Health issued new guidelines on offering safer alternatives to street drugs in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The city says it's hoped that by allowing the prescription of safe drugs it will not only reduce the risk over overdose but allow people to keep physical distance.

It says drug supply remains toxic with fentanyl and other contaminants present in many local illicit drugs and overdose prevention sites in the city remain open for people to access.

There have been more than 4,700 overdose deaths in B.C. since the crisis was first declared nearly four years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first reported April 1, 2020.