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New Brunswick to keep borders closed to temporary foreign workers

New Brunswick to shut its borders to temporary foreign workers due to COVID-19
WATCH: The move to shut down the borders come as seasonal industries that depend on foreign labour begin to gear up. But as Silas Brown reports, Premier Blaine Higgs is hopeful the demand can be met from within the province.

New Brunswick will not allow temporary foreign workers to enter the province for seasonal work this year.

Premier Blaine Higgs recognized the importance of temporary foreign workers to the New Brunswick economy at the daily press briefing, but says the risk of welcoming travelers right now is too great.

“Under normal circumstances we welcome foreign temporary workers in our province,” Higgs said on Tuesday.

READ MORE: ‘Let’s stay focused’: N.B. premier warns against breaking public health rules as province loosens restrictions

“They play an important role in New Brunswick’s continued economic growth. But right now the risk of allowing more people to enter the province is simply too great.”

There are already about 1,500 temporary foreign workers in the province who will not be impacted by the decision and will be allowed to remain.

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The federal government said near the beginning of the month that seasonal foreign workers, who play a critical role in the country’s agricultural sector, would be allowed through the border. Any worker coming into the country will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: New Brunswick records no new cases for the 8th day in a row

Higgs broached the topic in a conversation with deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday evening. He says she was sensitive to his concerns about opening the borders to a flood of workers as the province has been highly successful in stemming the outbreak of the virus.

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Higgs has also requested that the workers already here can be shifted to where they are needed and Freeland has committed to looking into how to make that happen.

But still, the lack of workers will leave a hole in province’s labour market, particularly in seafood processing plants and the agricultural sector. To help fill that gap Higgs appealed to New Brunswickers that find themselves out of work.

READ MORE: How New Brunswick’s four-step plan to recover from COVID-19 works

“Yes I am optimistic that the people of this province will once again demonstrate their willingness, their ability to go out of their comfort zone or step up because we need them,” he said.

“We need to work together to ensure that we have a successful outcome and it continues to be successful.”

As the province shuts its doors to temporary foreign workers, some travelers will get temporary access to New Brunswick over the next several weeks.

Parents of university students in the province will be able to enter for 24 hours in order to help their children move. They are also being asked to self-isolate as much as possible while in the province, and if they remain for longer than the 24 hour period they will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

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READ MORE: N.B. to allow outdoor activities, family ‘bubbles’ in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says that a guidance document has been provided to the universities to help parents undergo the process safely. But she says the risks, if all goes to plan, should be minimal.

“The guidelines that we’ve put out are really to give the best protections possible. So people have to use their judgment, make good choices and minimize those risks,” she said.

“Obviously the presumption around a parent coming to move their child … is that they are just going to interact with that person and stay with just that person and then go to the province that they’re moving to.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick economic recovery plan coming soon as province moves toward ‘new normal’

Parents of New Brunswick students attending school outside the province will have to self-isolate if they return from helping them move.

Testing criteria for the virus is also being expanded in order to help the province continue to monitor for pockets of the virus. Chills, fatigue, diarrhea, a lack of taste or smell, or purple spots on a child’s feet have been added to the list of symptoms to monitor.

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If you have two or more of these symptoms you are asked to call 811 and follow instructions from there. If a child presents with purple spots, no other symptoms need to be present to qualify for testing.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.