BC Ferries reduces service to Gulf Islands over COVID-19 concerns
VANCOUVER -- Responding to concerns of increased visitors heading to the Gulf Islands, BC Ferries is reducing service from Vancouver and Victoria as of Friday.
The adjusted schedule is to protect the health and safety of the communities and ferry workers and will be in place for 60 days, BC Ferries says.
As of April 10, service to the southern Gulf Islands will move to a simplified schedule to support the movement of essential goods.
That service will become a one-vessel route and will travel between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, while stopping at Pender, Mayne and Galiano islands. Another vessel will travel between the islands, stopping at Swartz Bay, Saturna, Mayne, Galiano and Pender islands.
Service to Salt Spring Island's Long Harbour is being halted for now, but the island will still have its routes between Swartz Bay and Fulford Harbour along with the route between Crofton and Vesuvius.
Anyone with a reserved sailing that has been impacted by these changes will be refunded automatically, BC Ferries says.
The revised schedule can be seen online.
Local officials ask visitors to stay home
Representatives of the Gulf Islands began asking visitors to stay away last month, citing concerns of limited health-care resources.
"First responders are volunteers who are practicing sheltering in place in order to be available for normal emergencies. We urge everyone to stay home and avoid discretionary travel to and from the islands," said Peter Luckham, chair of Islands Trust Council, in a news release.
"As ferry-dependent communities, we are especially vulnerable and face additional challenges. Now is not the time to take a holiday or visit your vacation property."
The Sunshine Coast, another community that relies on BC Ferries, is also concerned there could be an influx of travellers over the long weekend.
"One of the concerns I have here in Gibsons is we have one of the highest average populations of seniors in the province … we have care homes, we have seniors who are shopping, seniors who are in the community and we just don't want to put them at risk needlessly," Gibsons' mayor, Bill Beamish, told CTV News Vancouver.
For all routes, BC Ferries is asking locals to avoid all non-essential travel.
Many communities served by BC Ferries have issued advisories to travellers notifying them of limited supplies, healthcare equipment and resources," a statement from BC Ferries says.
"Follow the advice of health authorities; stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Do your part to help 'flatten the curve.'"