(BC Ferries/Twitter)

B.C. now has an order that gives passengers priority boarding on BC Ferries vessels if they are travelling to access medical support.

On Thursday, the province’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced an order that will allow BC Ferries to provide priority medical-assured loading on the first available vessel for any individual, their vehicle and an escort, as part of the Province’s continued COVID-19 pandemic response.

“As the Province’s safe restart plan continues and use of ferry services increases, we are updating ministerial orders under the Emergency Program Act,” said Farnworth in a statement.

“These new provisions will ensure that medical-assured loading is protected for people travelling by ferry for medical treatment. BC Ferries will also continue to give priority to vehicles carrying essential goods and supplies, and will need to consult the Province before changing or varying minimum ferry service levels.”

Passengers who wish to access this priority loading will have to provide a doctor’s letter indicating that they require medical-assured loading for treatment at check-in, as well as a completed Travel Assistance Program (TAP) form.

As part of Thursday’s announcement, the province is also rescinding some orders issued at the start of the pandemic, including one which allowed priority access for passengers sailing to their primary residence.

“We introduced these measures, with the public interest in mind, at the beginning of the pandemic when ferry routes were significantly reduced,” said transportation minister Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Now that ferry service levels have increased with more British Columbians travelling within the province, we expect BC Ferries to continue to monitor demand and ensure adequate capacity is in place.”

An order requiring local governments to implement an emergency plan has also been rescinded as those plans are now fully in place.

The province is also taking back a March 26 order that prohibited municipal governments from declaring a state of emergency.

Local authorities will still be required to seek approval from the province before making a new declaration of a state of local emergency or using any extraordinary powers in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However they now have no restrictions on their ability to use emergency powers for other situations like floods and fires.