BC Ferries asks people to avoid non-essential trips during holiday season

Dec 10 2020, 12:21 pm

With province-wide COVID-19 restrictions still in effect, BC Ferries is asking people to avoid non-essential travel over this holiday season.

The request comes after BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently reiterated the need for people to stay local and avoid travel unless absolutely necessary.

“This virus moves quickly and easily between us,” she said. “We are continuing to see unchecked transmission in many places, despite the efforts of our public health teams and contact tracers,” she said. “That is why, during this second surge, the need to follow the provincial health orders is so important.”

Henry repeated the province’s message that now is the time “to stay local. We need to stay small and we need to avoid those public settings that, right now, are a risk for all of us.”

Henry said she asks “everyone in BC to not travel right now unless it is absolutely essential for work or medical care.”

This includes travel around BC and to other provinces.

She was asked if further enforcement around this rule should be taking place – particularly at BC Ferries terminals – and whether measures such as travel checkpoints at the terminals should be implemented.

“These are challenging things, and we’ve not had to do that before,” said Henry during a press conference. “There are many reasons that people need to travel, and we know that there are many essential reasons for people coming and going, and it is very much a challenge for workers at BC Ferries to take on that role, and I don’t believe it is their responsibility to.”

Instead, said Henry, “I think it is all our responsibility to each other to check about whether what we’re doing is for our own needs and recreation, or whether we need to – and can – postpone this travel until another time when it’s safer.”

For customers who do need to travel for essential purposes over the holiday period, BC Ferries offered the following advice:

  • Plan in advance – Priority will be to keep essential goods, groceries, holiday letters and packages moving.
  • Book in advance – This guarantees passengers travel on the sailing of their choice. BC Ferries recently launched a new mobile-friendly website that makes it easier for customers to book and manage their bookings online.
  • Wear a face covering – For the health and safety of other passengers and crew, BC Ferries requires all customers to wear non-medical masks or face coverings at terminals and while onboard ferries. Some exceptions are listed on bcferries.com, and customers who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition may be asked to provide a medical certificate. Travellers without a face covering who do not meet the exceptions may be refused travel.
  • Maintain physical distancing onboard – BC Ferries has opened up additional space onboard so customers can maintain physical distancing. “Grab and go” limited hot food and items are available on select vessels and routes. Grab a bite and take it back to your vehicle on the upper deck, or to one of the passenger areas, or the outer decks.
  • Arrive early if you’re travelling by foot and be prepared for the weather. For the safety of passengers, BC Ferries does not permit crowding in its foot passenger areas, so some passengers may have to queue outdoors. Please check the forecast and bring an umbrella if necessary.
  • Leave your vehicle if travelling on an enclosed vehicle deck during the sailing to comply with Transport Canada’s regulation. At this time of year, the enclosed decks remain cool and there are pet areas on the upper decks for passengers with pets as well as enough space onboard to maintain physical distancing.
  • Arrive at least an hour before your sailing – Transport Canada COVID-19 screening is in effect and it can take a little longer at check-in.

“The health and safety of employees and customers is BC Ferries’ top priority,” the company said in a statement. “Measures include additional cleaning and sanitization, support for physical distancing and physical barriers.”

Customers affected by the extended travel restrictions are encouraged to contact BC Ferries to change or cancel their holiday travel bookings. Reservations fees for existing bookings will be refunded for travel between now and January 8, 2021. Please contact 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779) for assistance.

BC Ferries added that it “does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees or other passengers. BC Ferries takes this matter seriously, and a customer who abuses an employee or fellow passenger, including verbal abuse, may be denied service.”