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BC Ferries car deck rules suspended to prevent COVID-19 spread

BC Ferries will increase patrols on the enclosed car decks “to ensure safety in the rare event of an emergency"
Photo by Sophie Woodrooffe/Coast Reporter

BC Ferries is now allowing travellers to stay in their vehicles on all car decks “to help support social distancing and self-isolation.” 

In her Monday briefing, provincial medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said agreement from Transport Canada to give BC Ferries more flexibility to accommodate those who wanted to keep their social distance by staying in their vehicles was expected “soon.” 

In a release March 17, the ferry company said, “The decision is the result of collaboration between Transport Canada and the Canadian Ferry Association to provide ferry operators with important flexibility to help protect passengers and their families from COVID-19 related risks, while also ensuring additional measures are taken to ensure passenger safety.” 

BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins said, “BC Ferries, the province, and the federal government are doing everything they can to help prevent the spread of this illness… We proactively took measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increasing cleaning on board and at our terminals, closing the Pacific Buffet, as well as posting signage encouraging customers to practice good hand washing and social distancing.” 

Premier John Horgan, who had raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a conference call with the other premiers, said via Twitter that “This is an important measure … to continue safely connecting our communities for the people who need it at this time.” 

The Sunshine Coast Physician Task Force monitoring COVID-19 is, however, recommending against any non-essential ferry travel. In its March 16 community update the task force members said, “We would strongly encourage everyone on the Sunshine Coast to avoid any gatherings and to stay at home unless you have an acute medical problem, work or another essential reason to be out. This includes staying on the Coast and off the ferries.” 

BC Ferries said that while the rule is suspended, the company will increase patrols on the enclosed car decks “to ensure safety in the rare event of an emergency.” 

The company also said people should not expect the temporary measure to become permanent. “Passengers will not be allowed on closed car decks once the COVID-19 situation ends,” the release said. “As this situation is rapidly evolving, BC Ferries encourages customers to monitor the website for any changes to service.”

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