Government will house hundreds of P.E.I.'s temporary foreign workers in quarantine

Temporary foreign workers have begun to arrive on P.E.I., and are starting their mandatory 14 days in quarantine.

About 40 workers currently in self-isolation in province, 450 more expected

Temporary foreign workers are an important source of labour for farmers and seafood processors on P.E.I. (CBC)

Temporary foreign workers have begun to arrive on P.E.I., and are starting their mandatory 14 days in quarantine in compliance with the province's rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The workers have been deemed essential by the federal government, and so are allowed in the country. On P.E.I. they make up a significant part of the workforce in agriculture and seafood processing.

Thirty-nine workers are now in self-isolation, including five who arrived Tuesday, officials said.

Workers are being transported to the Island from the Halifax airport by a contracted bus service to ensure physical distancing.

The province is putting them up for their 14 days of quarantine.

"They are housed in individual rooms and are provided with information on all requirements in their first language to ensure they have knowledge of provincial requirements," said a government spokesperson in an email to CBC.

450-500 more workers expected

They expect to house between 450 and 500 temporary foreign workers at provincial sites between April 20 and mid-June.

Officials said the timing for the arrivals of those workers is based on a number of factors, such as processing of documentation, availability of flights as well as original schedules and timelines for their arrival before the pandemic.

Agriculture workers traditionally arrive in late March and early April each year, while seafood workers usually arrive in April between the middle and end of the month.

Once self-isolation is over, public health officials will oversee transportation of employees to their work sites to ensure safe distancing is maintained.

Most workers from Mexico

Most of the new agriculture workers (about 250) are coming from Mexico and Jamaica, as Canada has an agreement with those countries for seasonal agriculture workers. Most of the seafood workers (200-250) are coming from Mexico, Philippines and China.

About 70 per cent of the new arrivals will be from Mexico, followed by Philippines, China and Jamaica.

The new arrivals are in addition to about 650 temporary foreign workers already in the province who arrived before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

Last year, 1,400 temporary foreign workers were issued work permits for P.E.I. The province expects to see a reduction of 20 per cent for workers coming to P.E.I. this year for the agriculture and seafood processing sectors.

Provincial officials say the reduction is due to the difficulty in getting here, as well as employers reducing the number of temporary foreign workers they need.

More from CBC P.E.I. 

With files from Brittany Spencer


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