B.C. Ferries is reducing sailings between Victoria and Vancouver at the start of spring break because COVID-19 social-distancing measures have led to a decrease in traffic.
The company cancelled eight trips today between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, and another two on the route on Monday.
B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said the cancelled sailings were added to the regular schedule to accommodate anticipated spring-break traffic. “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 has 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.
He said that would violate Transport Canada safety regulations, but B.C. Ferries has raised the issue with the federal department.
Marshall said B.C. Ferries continues to discuss the issue 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 they park on the upper open 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.
Premier John Horgan said at a Friday news conference that during a call with the prime minister, he raised the issue of staying in cars on enclosed decks.
“B.C. Ferries has requested leniency from Transport Canada and that hasn’t been granted,” Horgan said.
“So I raised with the prime minister my view that in this instance we want to see social distancing — and if we have to direct people to leave their vehicles to congregate in smaller spaces for an hour and a half, that’s not good public health policy.”
Horgan said Trudeau assured him that “he would discuss that with his colleagues at Transport Canada.”
Because of concerns about COVID-19, ferry crews have stepped up cleaning of areas that are touched frequently, including tables, handrails, payment pin pads, door handles and elevator buttons.