Coronavirus: Health unit order aims to protect migrant farm workers in Kawarthas, Haliburton, Northumberland

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The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has issued a proactive order for agricultural farms that employ migrant workers to prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19. – Jul 9, 2020

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has issued an order for agricultural farms with migrant workers to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order, under Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, will apply to any farm that employs migrant workers and/or participate in the federal Temporary Foreign Worker  or operates any model of seasonal housing accommodations.

The order went into effect at noon and will remain in effect until the medical officer of health determines it is no longer required.

Read more: Migrant workers in Canada stage multi-city protest, call for more COVID-19 protections

The health unit serves the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Haliburton County.

“While we have not seen large COVID-19 outbreaks at farms in our area, the health unit is taking this step to help further reduce the risk to the people working in our area farms and the residents of our community,” said Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, the health unit’s medical officer of health.

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The order requires temporary foreign workers to isolate for 14 days upon entry into Canada, and that accommodations be inspected by the health unit. Current and future migrant workers must only work exclusively at one workplace.

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Farms are also required to provide potable water and healthy meals to workers while they self-isolate.

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Farm owners and operators must ensure all employees are practising physical distancing, wearing personal protective equipment and paying attention to cleaning.

While most owners and operators of agricultural farms have been compliant with requirements, Noseworthy says this order provides the health unit with a “proactive legal measure” to strengthen its ability to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure the health of essential food workers.

“We have been working closely with our farm operators throughout the pandemic response and we are pleased that we have not seen outbreaks similar to those experienced in other parts of the province,” Noseworthy said. “If we all continue to work together, we can keep each other safe.”

Read more: Mandatory masks: ‘we support that initiative,’ says City of Kawartha Lakes mayor

Failure to comply with the order could result in fines up to $5,000 a person or $25,000 for a corporation each day an offence occurs or continues, the health unit noted.

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