The Easter long weekend is usually a busy time for BC Ferries as people head off to vacation or visit family, but service saw a significant drop in passengers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press conference Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged there has been “a lot of discussions and a lot of frustration in communities about people who may appear at least to be travelling necessarily” during the pandemic.
However, Dix said BC Ferries data from this weekend showed an overall decrease in passenger numbers.
It is important to note that some of these passenger volume reductions are due to health safety capacity cuts to each ship. Transport Canada has also implemented new policies ordering a 50% capacity reduction on BC Ferries vessels.
- See also:
During the 2019 Easter long weekend (Thursday to Sunday), the Duke Point/Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen routes recorded 173,284 passengers. This year, that passenger count dropped to 14,633, which is a 92% decrease, noted Dix.
Last year, the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale route saw 21,398 travellers, and that dropped to 3,911 this past weekend.
There were 3,342 passengers recorded on the Southern Gulf Island routes this weekend, compared to 23,349 last year. Other minor routes dropped from 42,904 passengers to 8,908.
Petition calls for restricted travel on BC Ferries
Despite the efforts to reduce passenger volume, a petition calling to restrict unnecessary travel to Vancouver Island via BC Ferries has received over 38,000 signatures in a matter of days.
“Vancouver Island residents are worried about their safety amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and we’re still seeing tourists from other provinces and the US driving on our roads here,” reads the petition.
“We need to be proactive and protect our residents – this island has a lot of people who are considered high risk and it’s in our best interest to come together as a community to protect our friends, family and neighbours.”
But the province’s top doctor says she believes residents have been doing their part to stay at home as much as possible.
“I think it’s safe to say that we have been united in keeping our firewall strong across this province, and BC Ferries continues to report more than 80% decline on travellers on all of their routes, so that is something that reassures us,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry during Monday afternoon’s press conference.
“But I do want to say that there are many reasons why people may need to travel, and essential travel is still required to keep our province going, to make sure that we have the food, the medications, the things that we need in all parts of the province.”
Henry added that “goods and the people to deliver our services still need to move. Many students as well are now returning home as the semesters have ended for universities, and that is an important thing for them.”
“I also know many people live and work in more than one location, and that means the start and the end of their week they may need to be on the road,” she said.
“But I thank you all for doing what you can to limit your need for travel and everybody whose efforts to stay home and stay safe and keep a safe distance from others this weekend.”