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Hastings Prince Edward moves to protect migrant workers from COVID-19

The medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward counties is taking steps to protect migrant workers from COVID-19 as the summer months approach. Global Kingston

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH), has issued a new health order meant to help protect agricultural workers from COVID-19 in the region.

“Temporary migrant and local agricultural workers are vital to our farming industry and food system, and we need to protect them from COVID-19 transmission,” Oglaza said in a statement Friday.

Read more: Coronavirus: Canada’s migrant farm workers face fatal COVID-19 outbreaks, alleged mistreatment

Oglaza said that although there are some protections for agricultural workers in Ontario, the continued spread in these populations shows that the group is still especially vulnerable during the third wave of the pandemic.

The Section 22 order comes into place on May 19, and enables the health unit to enforce the following requirements:

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  • Ensuring all temporary foreign workers isolate for 14 days from date of arrival in Canada
  • Ensuring no worker works or has close contact with others until their quarantine period is complete
  • Ensuring appropriate accommodations, and adequate essentials such as nutritious food/groceries, potable water, and cleaning supplies are provided to any farm worker in quarantine, isolation or otherwise
  • Ensuring living accommodation supplied by or arranged for the workers is pre-approved by HPEPH
  • Ensuring all public health measures pertaining to COVID-19, such as adherence to self-isolation orders, active screening, cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment are followed
  • Ensuring that workers have the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine (such as coordinating worker transportation to and from the vaccine clinic during a paid work period with no penalty)
  • Ensuring workers have access to factual, reputable vaccine information in their preferred language and are not penalized if refusing vaccination
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These rules apply to any operators of agricultural farms who employ farm workers in any capacity, participate in federal temporary foreign worker program or who operate any model of temporary worker housing.

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Any person found in contravention of the new order can be fined $5,000 a day for every day of the offence. Corporations will be fined $25,000 a day.

The order can be reviewed on the HPEPH website.

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