VANCOUVER -- While international travel is certainly no longer recommended by provincial and federal health officials, travel within B.C. is also being advised against during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, BC Ferries said it's recommending against all non-essential travel.

However, the ferries service says it has not been told to restrict travel entirely and is still accepting passengers. 

"None of us should be travelling if it is not essential," said Mark Collins, BC Ferries' president and CEO, in a news release. 

"We want our customers that need to travel to know that we have taken steps to keep ferry travel as safe as possible. We are asking our customers to adhere to safe practices for their own safety and for the safety of BC Ferries employees."

Last week, BC Ferries said it has seen a decline in traffic of about 40 per cent, prompting some sailing cancellations on its routes between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and on its Horseshoe Bay to Sunshine Coast route. 

To help those who do need to travel, BC Ferries says it has implemented extra cleaning and disinfecting measures. As well, passengers can stay in their cars on most decks now and overhead walkways have been closed so walk-on passengers can have space for physical distancing. 

BC Ferries also closed all food and retail service and stopped baggage handling. 

"Our front line co-workers face the COVID-19 virus everyday so that critical supplies like groceries and medical supplies, and people reach coastal communities," said Collins "We are incredibly proud of our loyal and dedicated colleagues." 

Fuel rebate introduced amid falling gas prices

Though BC Ferries has advised the public to avoid non-essential travel, those who do have to get on a ferry next month will be paying slightly less to do so.

The provincial ferry operator announced Wednesday that it would be adding a 1.5 per cent fuel rebate to its fares, beginning on April 1.

That rebate works out to 30 cents off a one-way passenger fare on routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, plus an additional 90 cents off of the cost of a one-way standard vehicle fare. This means the total cost of making a round trip between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay with a vehicle next month will be $2.40 cheaper than it currently is.

BC Ferries implements a fuel rebate or surcharge - or neither - based on the price of fuel in the province. The process for determining this amount is separate from the company's system for determining fares.

The company also announced Wednesday that it would delay annual tariff adjustments that were scheduled to go into effect April 1. No new date for the annual adjustment has been announced.