A spokesperson for BC Ferries described the first weekend subject to new COVID-19 travel restrictions as smooth and without an incidents.
Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries’ executive director, public affairs, marketing and customer experience, said staff denied a “handful of customers” travel on the six routes that cross the regional zones as per the provincial order. Marshall later said the actual number ranged from four to seven.
“There was no need to call authorities,” she said. “It was more a matter of a few people not being fully aware of the order.”
The ban effective since Friday until May 25 divides the province into three major travel regions based on the five provincial health regions and prohibits non-essential travel between them.
The trio consists of Vancouver Island (Vancouver Island Health), Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health) and Northern-Interior (Northern Health and Interior Health, including Bella Coola Valley, the Central Coast and Hope).
The provincial government said the goal of the order is educational. If the restrictions need to be enforced, people not obeying may be subject to a $575 fine from police. Departments may set up periodic road checks at key travel corridors during times linked with leisure travel to remind travellers of the order.
The order sees BC Ferries ask travellers if their passage is essential and non-essential travellers will be asked not to board vessels headed to a different region.
BC Ferries will also suspend adding extra sailings during weekends, holidays and peak travel periods and notify all travellers with reservations that the travel order is in place and allow cancellations free of charge.
Marshall said traffic across the fleet continues to drop.
On the Tsawwassen-to-Swartz Bay route, passenger numbers dropped 34 per cent while vehicle numbers dropped 24 per cent over the weekend compared to last weekend. “Compared to 2019, we were down 82 per cent in passengers and 65 per cent in vehicles,” she said.
On the Horseshoe Bay-to-Departure Bay route, passenger numbers dropped 42 per cent while vehicle numbers dropped 37 per cent this weekend compared to last weekend. “Compared to 2019, we were down 77 per cent in passengers and 64 per cent in vehicles,” she said.
On the Tsawwassen-to-Duke Point route, passenger numbers dropped 17 per cent while vehicle numbers dropped seven per cent this weekend compared to last weekend. “Keep in mind, a lot of commercial traffic (essential travel) usually uses this route,” she said. “Compared to 2019, we were down 74 per cent in passengers and 60 per cent in vehicles.”
While Marshall said she lacked specific numbers, many customers have been contacting BC Ferries to cancel their bookings. “Our traffic is down significantly, which means British Columbians are heeding the order and advise to avoid non-essential travel at this time,” she said.
The Peninsula News Review reached out to Sidney/North Saanich RCMP for comment and additional information and will update this story accordingly.
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