VICTORIA -- Effective immediately, BC Ferries will allow passengers to remain in their cars below deck in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The ferry service announced the move to promote social distancing among its passengers on Tuesday.

Last week Transport Canada denied a BC Ferries request to allow passengers to remain in their cars on enclosed ferry decks, saying it would compromise passenger safety.

Premier John Horgan put pressure on the federal government Friday to allow the temporary change in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The reversal of Transport Canada's decision will apply to all BC Ferries vessels with enclosed car decks.

BC Ferries says it will increase patrols on car decks to ensure safety in the event of an emergency. Passengers will not be allowed on closed car decks once the COVID-19 situation ends.

“BC Ferries, the province, and the federal government are doing everything they can to help prevent the spread of this illness,” said ferries CEO Mark Collins in a statement Tuesday.

“At BC Ferries, we proactively took measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increasing cleaning on board and at our terminals, closing the Pacific Buffet, as well as posting signage encouraging customers to practice good hand washing and social distancing.”

BC Ferries is operating on a reduced schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on sailing times is available here