What are the rules around essential workers coming to P.E.I.?

As of right now, only those who are deemed essential are being allowed into P.E.I., but there are some stringent rules they need to follow when in the province. 

'They would self-isolate when they're not having to be at work'

A truck leaves P.E.I. via the Confederation Bridge March 29, 2020. Trucks taking goods such as food back and forth across the bridge are considered essential and have to follow unique self-isolation rules. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

People working in essential industries and services are still being allowed to come to P.E.I., but have to follow strict rules when in the province as a precaution to help impede the spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday, the province asked anyone planning to travel to P.E.I. to call ahead to let officials know the nature of the visit. If the purpose of the trip isn't deemed essential, they will not be permitted to come to the Island.

However, essential workers do not have to let the province know about their trip to P.E.I., said Minister of Justice Bloyce Thompson. 

Who is considered essential?

Essential workers that might be coming to P.E.I. include: 

  • Health-care workers.

  • Construction workers.

  • Truckers.

  • Delivery workers.

Do essential workers have to self-isolate? Yes and no

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison has said anyone coming to P.E.I. from another province has to self-isolate for 14 days. 

But, in the public health order dated March 31, 2020, essential employees that are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are "exempt from the requirement to self-isolate."

But it's a bit more nuanced than that.

The order goes on the say those workers, "shall self-isolate for the duration of their stay in the province other than when they are performing work duties." 

They would self-isolate when they're not having to be at work— Dr. Heather Morrison

In other words, essential workers who come to the Island can go directly to work, but when they're done for the day they should go to their accommodations and stay there. No grocery store. No gas station.

"If you are an essential worker who may be in … the trucking industry or working for the maintenance of our critical infrastructure they would self-isolate when they're not having to be at work," said Morrison.

Who is coming to P.E.I.?

A number of workers in the construction industry are coming to the Island for contracts that were issued prior to the public health orders being put in place. 

Electricians, painters and drywall workers are just some of those who may be coming to the Island to finish their contracts, explained Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I. 

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., says a number of contractors are still coming onto the Island to complete contracts made before public health precautions were put in place. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

When they do cross the bridge, workers are only allowed to go either to their job site or to their accommodations, said Sanderson. And when they're on job sites, extra precautions are being taken. 

"Anytime you have people you're not a hundred per cent familiar with, you don't know their history ... there's always a risk," he said. 

"That's where we really have to stress the importance of proper hand sanitization and social distancing."

New rule for long-term care workers 

Morrison announced an exception to the exemption Thursday.

Employees who work in long-term care facilities on the Island are required to self-isolate following any travel outside of the province. 

"Previously, there had been an exemption for these health-care workers," she said. 

Morrison said it is in response to what is happening around the country in long-term care facilities, where there have been severe outbreaks and many deaths.

"That is really ... a real critical area that we want to be very careful about," she said.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


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