VANCOUVER -- B.C. health officials announced another 546 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths from the disease on Thursday.

The province has now recorded a total of 66,265 infections and 1,184 deaths 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 "everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic."

B.C.'s active caseload increased to 4,455, up from 4,299 on Wednesday. But the number of patients in hospital dropped to 291 – the lowest it's been since Nov. 24 – with 75 in intensive care.

The rest of the people who have tested positive for the coronavirus are said to be recovering at home in self-isolation.

Two new health-care facility outbreaks have been declared, at the Bradley Centre and Concord by the Sea, while four others have ended.

Health officials recently remarked that the province's number of daily cases had plateaued at around 500, and warned there could be another spike if residents aren't on their best behaviour.

On Thursday, Henry and Dix stressed the importance of staying apart for upcoming holidays, including Lunar New Year and Family Day. They urged the public not to travel outside their community for non-essential reasons, even for a day trip.

"Any travel beyond your local community, unless it is absolutely essential for work or medical care, is strongly discouraged right now. This is necessary because we know that COVID-19 can travel with us, and we can just as easily bring it back on our return," they said.

"The more people you see and more places you go increase the risk for you, your family and those in the community you may be visiting. Rather, this coming Family Day, make it a day with your family at home. Plan something local and make it special for the people in your household."

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan also issued a warning to incoming travellers that the province will come down on them "like a ton of bricks" if they don't follow local COVID-19 rules.

For now, however, B.C. is not following in the footsteps of provinces that are forcing all arriving visitors to quarantine for two weeks. Manitoba became the latest province to impose such a measure this week, citing concerns about the new COVID-19 variants that have arrived in Canada.

Meanwhile, British Columbia is continuing to administer its remaining doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. Some 127,255 doses have been given out so far, including 4,185 second doses.

Of all the COVID-19 infections identified in the province so far, 59,141 people – or about 89 per cent of cases – have recovered.