British Columbia

8 temporary foreign workers test positive for COVID-19 while quarantined this spring

Eight temporary foreign workers who arrived in B.C. to work on farms this spring developed COVID-19 symptoms while quarantined by the province in a hotel.

1,549 temporary foreign workers were quarantined before starting work in B.C.

Migrant farm workers in Abbotsford on Monday, September 9, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Eight temporary foreign workers who arrived in B.C. to work on farms this spring developed COVID-19 symptoms while quarantined by the province in hotels.

This spring, some 1,549 temporary foreign workers who arrived in B.C. have gone through, or are in the process of completing, the federally required 14-day isolation.

Of that number so far, eight have tested positive for COVID-19.

Farms in B.C. rely on temporary workers for labour and harvest. B.C. was the first province to provide quarantine services for staff coming in from other countries this year. P.E.I also does this now.

More than 40,000 seasonal workers come to Canada every year, many from Mexico, Jamaica and Guatemala. They make up half the work force in the produce sector according to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

Would-be B.C. workers are screened when they arrive at the Vancouver International Airport by both the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada, according to the province.

The Ministry of Agriculture's media person emailed details about how the process works that said each person is screened as they deplane and then taken to a hotel provided by the province to complete the two-week isolation process.

One person was identified by the PHAC at the airport and transferred to a federal hotel for 14 days.

That person has since been cleared and moved to a farm to work.

Ober Najera Cruz, a migrant farm worker, carries corn at Neufeld Farms in Abbotsford on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Seven of the eight workers that were identified by the province as having COVID-19 have since been cleared and are all on different farms in B.C.

The eighth person still remains in a hotel in isolation.

B.C. pays for all hotel fees and food during the 14-day isolation period near the airport. The province also provides socio-economic or cultural supports.

Agricultural employers who house seasonal workers in bunk houses or other groups must promote physical distancing of at least two metres. Farms that employ temporary foreign workers are inspected to verify their infection prevention control plan and required to follow infection control guidelines.

More than 40,000 seasonal workers come to Canada every year, many from Mexico, Jamaica and Guatemala. They make up half the work force in the produce sector. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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