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Transport Canada rescinds measure meant to promote physical distancing on BC Ferries

VANCOUVER -- A measure put in place earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic is being walked back by Transport Canada. BC Ferries was allowing passengers to stay in their cars when parked on enclosed decks as a measure to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. But as of the end of the month, passengers will have to leave their vehicles again on most routes.

The service provider said in a statement that the temporary measure will be rescinded by the federal agency as of Sept.

30. "Enclosed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public," BC Ferries said in a statement Wednesday. "During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols.

However, Transport Canada has now advised BC Ferries that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada." Those measures include additional cleaning and sanitation, as well as requiring passengers to wear masks and stay physically distanced from others. The update will affect the Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay route, as well as sailings between Tsawwassen and Duke Point, and Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay.

It also affects sailings between Powell River and Comox, and Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands. Passengers on those routes will be informed of the regulation if parked on closed car decks. Those on larger vessels who are parked on open, upper decks will be allowed to stay in their vehicles.

However, those travelling between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale may stay in their vehicles on the lower car decks. That route is in what Transport Canada refers to as "sheltered" waters, so the stern doors can stay open, effectively making those enclosed decks open. In a situation where those doors must close, passengers may be asked to leave their vehicles.

The update comes a day after B.C. announced a record-breaking caseload of COVID-19. 

Over the long weekend, 429 cases were confirmed in the province, and two more people died of the disease.

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