Chéticamp residents worry out-of-province fishery workers could bring COVID-19
Fishery workers are exempt from public health protocols such as self-isolation under N.S. state of emergency
People in Chéticamp, N.S., are worried the upcoming fishing season could infect their community with COVID-19.
The snow crab season on the west side of Cape Breton Island usually starts in mid-April and the lobster fishery opens shortly after that.
Some Chéticamp residents say out-of-province workers are already in town looking for employment at the fish processing plant and those workers are exempt from the usual requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.
Valerie LeBlanc, co-owner of the Trofel Health Foods store in Chéticamp, said it's not personal with the workers, it's the fact they are exempt from public health protocols under the province's state of emergency.
"If we're going to allow all these people coming into the area and not having to self-isolate, how can we keep this virus out of the community?" she said.
Chéticamp's Sacred Heart Community Health Centre has 10 beds. LeBlanc said the fear is that out-of-town workers could bring the coronavirus in and swamp the health-care system.
"To me, the situation should be very easy," she said. "You come in, you self-isolate for two weeks and go ahead, do whatever you have to do."
Leonard LeBlanc represents fishermen on the board of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition.
He said if people coming from other provinces arrive at Nova Scotia's land border, airports and ferry terminals, they are told they have to self-isolate.
"If people are being quarantined when they reach the border for 14 days, you would think that it would apply the same to transient vessels that are going to come from various provinces," LeBlanc said.
"This affects the port of Chéticamp more so than any other harbour in Nova Scotia."
LeBlanc said he asked the province two weeks ago to remove the self-isolation exemption for fish plant workers, but has not received a reply.
"The government needs to reflect on this very quickly and appease the fear that the community has, and rightfully so," he said.
According to information posted on the provincial government website under the state of emergency: "Nova Scotia borders will tighten to travellers and all entry points (land, sea, air) will be closely managed. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned, and told to self-isolate for 14 days."
A spokesperson for the province says if fishery workers are healthy, they are exempt from the usual public health rules and there are no plans to expand border checks beyond the highway, airports and ferry terminals.
On Friday, Bernadette Jordan, the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton that she is looking into the concerns.
Jordan said the topic was slated for discussion later on Friday during a weekly conference call with her provincial counterparts.
"These are all conversations that we're having, because … emergency measures are different in every province and they're regulated by the province, so this is something that is actually on the agenda to talk about today to see how we can best address that concern," she said.
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