The provincial government said it will extend its quarantine program for temporary foreign workers coming to B.C. for seasonal agriculture work.
The program includes funding hotel costs, food-service costs, laundry services, wellness walks, interpretation and translation services, health screening and other supports for workers during the quarantine period.
The province estimated around 11,000 temporary foreign workers will come to B.C. this year, similar to recent years.
“Extending our quarantine program will provide peace of mind to workers, employers and communities that we are doing everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Lana Popham, minister of agriculture, food and fisheries. “I know some of these workers leave their homes to come to B.C. year after year, many returning to the same farms where they have developed close relationships and we are grateful for their help in growing and harvesting food for British Columbians.”
Upon arrival in Canada, temporary foreign workers will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms by border and public health officials, the province said. If they have symptoms, they may be placed in quarantine at the point of entry or be sent to the hospital as per the federal Quarantine Act.
Asymptomatic workers will continue on to the provincial quarantine site for 14 days. Following the quarantine period, if no symptoms develop, workers will be safely transported to their farm.
“In the context of COVID-19, the Consulate of Mexico in Vancouver praises the actions taken by the B.C. government to ensure the safety and health of Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers by providing quarantine centres and physically inspecting the housing facilities before their arrival,” said Berenice Diaz Ceballos, Mexican consul general. “The ongoing collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and the consulate has allowed us to keep our nationals safe and informed. We look forward to jointly addressing the challenges we face during these complex times and after the pandemic is over.”
All farms receiving workers are required to have infection control and prevention measures in place and require an on-site inspection prior to worker arrival. Farmers and farm workers must also follow all provincial health officer (PHO) guidelines, including the PHO industrial camp order, which covers B.C.’s agriculture and seafood industry, according to the provincial government.
The province said it spent approximately $17 million on accommodations, meals and laundry service for the 4,997 temporary foreign workers who came to B.C. between April 13, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. During that time period, 64 COVID-19 positive cases were detected. All recovered while under the care and supervision of the provincial quarantine program.