Island traveller concerned with BC Ferries service cuts
VICTORIA -- A Courtenay woman is concerned travel restrictions on ferries will force her medical specialist appointment in Vancouver to be cancelled.
Tara Andrews says she has a rare autoimmune disease and travels to Vancouver so that she doesn’t fall into a liver failure category.
“It is very important that I go over there and get tests done because I can’t get them done here on the island,” she told CTV News Vancouver Island.
Andrews has been traveling back and forth getting check-ups and testing for 10 years now.
On Sunday, Transport Canada announced that all commercial marine vessels with a capacity of 12 passengers or more must stop all non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation.
“I knew right there and then, probably, my doctor’s appointment would be cancelled,” said Andrews. “I am just waiting to hear from the doctor’s office.”
BC Ferries is now reducing the maximum number of passengers allowed onboard each vessel by 50 per cent, so that passengers can implement practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like physical distancing.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshal says that ridership is already down by 80 per cent.
“For any voyage that is over 30 minutes in length we will be screening passengers before they come onto our vessels,” said Marshal.
“We are in the process of putting up signage in our terminals that will have a simple list of questions for them to read and they can confirm with the ticket agent their answers.”
The four screening question are:
1. Do you have a fever and a cough?
2. Do you have a fever and breathing difficulty?
3. Have you been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to COVID-19?
4. Are you the subject of a provincial/territorial or local public health order?
“We [will] ask the person the four questions and if they answer ‘yes’ we would deny them travel,” said Marshal.
If you are returning home from an international flight, you can still travel on a ferry if you haven’t tested positive for a presumptive case of COVID-19.
BC Ferry & Marine Workers’ Union president Graeme Johnston said the new rules could put ferry workers at risk.
“Not withstanding any concerns around proper personal protective equipment, my even bigger concern is the prospect of confrontation that arises from our members who are telling somebody they are unable to travel for reasons that probably seem quite arbitrary to that person,” he said.
Marshal hopes that anyone who wants to travel for leisure or recreation just stays home during the pandemic.
“If you are planning to go camping for the weekend or trying to take a trip somewhere, that type of travel is restricted right now,” she said.
Marshal says that anyone who is travelling to take care of an elderly parent or to get to a medical appointment is still allowed to, as that is considered essential travel.
“We certainly follow all the regulations outlined by Transport Canada... they are for the safety of our passengers and our crew,” said Marshal.
The mandatory rules are in place from April 6 until at least June 30.
“We will have them in as long as we need to,” said Marshal.
Andrews is scheduled to have her next appointment with her liver specialist in June for a FibroScan and to have blood work done. She said the last place she wants to travel to is Vancouver out of concern for her health.
“I say I can wait, but my body will tell me whether I can or not,” she said. “And it can come on suddenly.”