BC Ferries is experiencing heavy traffic with long weekend travellers heading back to the Lower Mainland. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

EDITORIAL: Vehicle deck ban places BC Ferry passengers’ health at risk

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British Columbia residents are stepping up their efforts in the fight against COVID-19, doing all that they can to stop the spread of the virus. That is until they board a BC Ferry.

As COVID cases spike across the province and around the globe, ferry passengers are still being forced from the safe confines of their vehicles and into the congested corridors of ferries.

Transport Canada reintroduced the ban on passengers in enclosed car decks on Sept. 30, after relaxing the ban on March 17 at the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic hasn’t gone away, in fact cases have spiked in recent weeks, yet the federal government seems to have little interest in preventing its spread.

Premier John Horgan expressed his frustration when the ban was reintroduced, and said steps would be taken to convince Transport Canada to reconsider. One month later, it’s becoming clear that ship has sailed.

ALSO READ: Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

The ban was first introduced in October 2017, ostensibly in response to the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North. Two passengers went missing and have never been found, however, there has never been any indication that the passengers were trapped on the lower vehicle deck.

And while there is no record of anyone being killed as a result of being trapped on the lower deck of a BC Ferry, more than 250 British Columbians have died from COVID-19 in the past several months. And latest information shows your chances of contracting that deadly virus are greatly increased in crowded surroundings, with or without a mask.

Health officials and political leaders at both the provincial and federal level must step up efforts to pressure Transport Canada to rescind a ban that goes against the most basic principles of social distancing.

While protecting ferry passengers against a risk that can only be described as infinitesimal, Transport Canada is turning a blind eye to a pandemic that has claimed over a million lives worldwide.

The Island has so far avoided much of the devastation this virus has inflicted on other parts of the world, but time is not on our side.

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