People still travelling on BC Ferries over long weekend despite warnings not to

Apr 11 2020, 11:19 am

Despite multiple warnings from public health officials and BC Ferries to stay home and avoid all non-essential travel over the long weekend, terminals linking the Lower Mainland to popular destinations such as Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands have still reportedly been busier than usual.

According to BC Ferries, most of the Tsawassen to Swartz Bay ferries on April 9 were at least 94% full, and at least 75% full on April 10.

This comes after multiple pleas from the government asking people to make virtual holiday plans to stay home, and BC Ferries urging customers to only travel if absolutely necessary.

And despite a statement by BC Ferries reminding travellers that many smaller island and coastal communities have limited supplies, healthcare equipment, and resources, sailings to places such Bella Coola, Ocean Falls, Shearwater, Bella Bella, and Nimpkish were also reportedly busy.

For its part, BC Ferries said on Twitter that while it is asking everyone to avoid all non-essential travel, it is “not authorized to restrict travel in this regard. Any enforcement will need to be based on directive from the provincial government.”

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry was asked if BC had any plans for a province-wide increase in enforcement on non-essential travel over the weekend such as police roadside checkpoints to help ensure compliance with the orders.

“No, we have not taken that approach,” she said. “We don’t intend to, and in most cases in Canada, we’re not using that approach.”

Rather, she said, “it’s much more about supporting people to do the right thing. I’m telling them what the right thing is, making sure they have the means to do the right thing, and as we have seen repeatedly, people do follow our advice around this.”

Henry said she expects people “will be taking that advice as well this weekend, and there will of course be the regular policing and public safety doing their thing.”

Ultimately, however, “we do not have specific enforcement around people travelling.”

On Saturday, Henry was for her response to reports of increased traffic on BC Ferries this weekend.

“We still say if you don’t have a reason to go, then don’t go,” she said. “We know most people are doing that.”

That said, “there are many reasons why people may need to travel – whether it’s for family or to to check up on people,” she added, noting that she has spoken to BC Ferries about the issue.

“They do report that for one, ferries are only allowed to carry 50% of capacity and we know the schedule has been dramatically reduced,” she said.  “They did confirm they’re only seeing a fraction of the traffic they would normally on this weekend.”

With files from Eric Zimmer