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B.C. Ferries trims spring-break sailings, closes buffets

“We are seeing reduced traffic, attributed to COVID-19,”
The Pacific Buffet dining room on the B.C. Ferries vessel Coastal Celebration. Photograph By Times Colonist

B.C. Ferries has reduced sailings between Victoria and Vancouver at the start of spring break as COVID-19 social distancing measures lead to reduced traffic.

The company cancelled eight trips on Sunday between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, and another two on the route on Monday.

B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the cancelled sailings had been added to the regular schedule to accommodate anticipated heavy traffic at the start of spring break.

“We are seeing reduced traffic, attributed to COVID-19,” Marshall said.

Regularly scheduled departures every two hours continue.

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, B.C. Ferries has closed the buffet normally available on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, the Spirit of British Columbia and the Coastal Celebration.

Marshall said the buffet will be closed “out of an abundance of caution” to avoid potential cross-contamination that could allow the virus to spread.

Many passengers have been asking to remain in their vehicles on enclosed vehicle decks as a result of the virus, B.C. Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins said in a statement Saturday. Collins said that violates Transport Canada safety regulations, and B.C. Ferries has raised the issue with the federal department.

Marshall said the company continues to discuss the restriction with Transport Canada. “At this point they have told us they won’t be relaxing it,” she said.

Passengers can remain in their vehicles if parked on the upper car decks of major vessels and on smaller vessels, which have open car decks. But on enclosed decks, passengers are required to leave the deck.

Marshall said normal procedure is to put large commercial vehicles on the lower deck and smaller vehicles if the upper car deck fills up.

“We’re trying to put as many on the upper car deck as possible,” she said.

Ferry crews have stepped up cleaning of areas that are touched frequently, including tables, handrails, payment pin pads, door handles and elevator buttons.

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