Coronavirus: Henry calls reports of full BC Ferries ‘overblown,’ says traffic is down

B.C.’s provincial health officer is calling reports that BC Ferries is experiencing high Easter weekend traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic “overblown”, but still urged people to avoid non-essential travel during the holiday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters Saturday that she spoke with BC Ferries herself to confirm reports of lineups at terminals on both Vancouver Island and the mainland Thursday and Friday.

Some sailings had been reporting they were between 95 and 99 per cent full Thursday evening, although those numbers refer to the number of vehicle boardings rather than total passengers.

Henry said she was assured that ferries have significantly reduced capacity to help maintain physical distancing measures and that those caps would remain in place through the Easter weekend.

“I’m heartened that I think most people are doing what we need to do, and they’re staying home. They’re looking after their family, they’re taking care of their neighbours. They’re managing this challenging time staying close to home and a safe distance from others.”

BC Ferries has significantly reduced the number of sailings on all routes amid the COVID-19 crisis. It is also legally required to reduce by 50 per cent the maximum number of passengers that may be carried onboard to support the two-metre physical distancing rule.

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Coastal and island communities have called on tourists and vacation property owners to stay home.

“I understand 25 cars came off this afternoon — two were locals, 23 were not local,” Galiano Island resident Jane Wolverton said Thursday.

“When you have such a small population everybody knows everybody.”

Earlier this week, health ministers for B.C. and Alberta urged residents to avoid travelling between the two provinces during the Easter weekend, recognizing the shared border is frequently crossed during major holidays.

Henry said Saturday that many people have to travel by necessity this weekend, including to and from Vancouver Island, and are allowed to travel if they have a legitimate reason to do so.

She advised the rest of B.C. to be compassionate towards those travellers while following self-isolation orders themselves.

“I think we all need to be patient and kind with each other,” she said.

—With files from Jordan Armstrong and Jon Azpiri

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