Extra cleaning measures are taking place on all BC Transit buses and at BC Transit facilities. (File contributed/ BC Transit)

UPDATE: BC Transit cancels many routes, offers free fares for next 30 days

BC Transit exempt from 50-person COVID-19 limit

BC Transit buses are still operating amidst COVID-19 fears, with slight alterations, after receiving an exemption from the province about a 50-person limit for group gatherings.

Some routes are being cancelled due to a slow down in passenger levels, and as of Wednesday, March 19, fares will be waived on all regular and HandyDART buses for the next 30 days to limit the amount of cash handled by people . Additionally, when possible people are asked to enter the bus by the back door to limit the contact between drivers and passengers.

Ongoing schedule changes are also anticipated.

“BC Transit has seen a significant reduction in ridership, and we expect to have daily trip cancellations for the foreseeable future that reflect demand and driver availability,” said BC Transit in an emailed statement. “We recognize this is a fluid situation and will update customers on a day-by-day basis while we work on implementing and communicating a new sustainable plan for services.”

On March 16 Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry further emphasized the importance of social distancing by banning crowds over 50 people.

“This is going to be really important for us for the coming weeks,” Henry said on Monday. “This is not forever but it is important for now.”

To further enforce this, on March 17 Henry ordered the closure of all bars and pubs, as well as any restaurants which couldn’t manage crowd sizes.

READ MORE: B.C. bans all gatherings of 50+ people to slow COVID-19 transmission

BC Transit, however, is not affected by this ban.

“The Province of B.C. has notified us that we are not included in the 50-person limit as we are an important service to transport people to work, including hospitals, and other destinations including grocery shopping,” said Jonathon Dyck, communication manager at BC Transit. “BC Transit places the safety of our riders, staff, and communities as our top priority. We want to assure you we are taking the Coronavirus COVID 19 situation seriously, and we are implementing plans based on advice from health experts.”

Plans include daily cleaning and enhanced disinfecting of high-touch areas, such as hand straps, top buttons, doors and seat tops. BC Transit also advises people to continue with the general health practises advised by the Province, including coughing or sneezing into your elbow and washing hands.

ALSO READ: Borders, cases, bans: What you need to know about Canada and B.C.’s COVID-19 response

“We encourage customers to please be courteous to your fellow riders. We also encourage you to stand behind the red line on the bus to give the driver room and space,” Dyck said. “If necessary, you can move around the bus to an open space. You can see the passenger loads on NextRide and choose to take another bus as appropriate.”

Plans are changing day by day. For continued updates visit BCtransit.com.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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