VANCOUVER -- Another long weekend means another several busy travel days on BC Ferries.

The ferry service says Thursday and Friday afternoons are typically the busiest times for travel from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island, as well as the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, while Sunday, Thanksgiving Monday and the following Tuesday are typically the busiest times for return voyages from those locales.

While the BC Ferries website showed none of the scheduled sailings departing Tsawwassen for Swartz Bay at capacity Friday afternoon, all but one of them - the 10 p.m. departure - had less than 50 per cent vehicle capacity remaining as of 2 p.m. 

Tessa Humphries, communications manager for BC Ferries, told CTV News Vancouver the company was preparing for a busy long weekend, but wasn't sure exactly how busy it would get.

"Historically, what you see is a lot of university students travelling and returning home for the holidays," Humphries said. "With university students, the majority of them are doing online classes. We're just not sure what we'll see in terms of traffic."

She said the ferry service is still operating at about 70 per cent of its normal capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and added that lots of people have been booking in advance, which BC Ferries advises during peak travel times.

During her update on B.C.'s response to the pandemic Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked whether the high volume of traffic on BC Ferries was concerning, given public health advice encouraging people to stay home and minimize the size of their gatherings.

Henry said she wasn't particularly concerned, citing the capacity restrictions and other safety measures BC Ferries has put in place to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

"We want people to stay local, and there are important reasons why people need to or want to go visit close family members that they may not have seen for a while, and this may be an opportunity to do that," the provincial health officer said.

Passengers on BC Ferries are required to wear face masks while at ferry terminals and aboard vessels.

The ferry service is also reminding people that they are no longer allowed to remain inside their vehicles if they are parked on enclosed vehicle decks. Passengers on open-air vehicle decks are still allowed to stay inside their vehicles for the duration of the sailing.

BC Ferries advises travellers to arrive at least an hour before their sailing is scheduled to depart to allow extra time for COVID-19 screening.