Ford says migrant workers are not to blame for COVID outbreaks
June 15, 2020 By Greenhouse Canada
As Ontario reports fewer than 200 cases of COVID-19 on June 15, 2020, the lowest day-over-day increase seen since late March, many parts of Ontario are moving into Phase 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan this Friday – with the exception of Peel, Toronto and Windsor-Essex.
When asked for an update on the Windsor-Essex COVID-19 outbreaks among farm workers, Ontario premier Doug Ford says workers need to take the COVID-19 test voluntarily and employers must also agree to it. “Most of them are cooperating,” he says. “I understand their concerns. If they test positive, they are going to lose all of their workers… lose their crops.”
He also stresses that it’s no fault of the migrant workers. “They came here, they self-isolated for two weeks, and they’ve picked it up since they’ve been here. So I don’t want any finger-pointing at these hard-working migrant workers. They’re good people, they mean well and they’re hard workers, too.”
The Ontario government also announced an additional $15 million in funding last week for health and safety initiatives, including personal protective equipment and renovations for agricultural producers. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out.
“The good news is, the public health trends across the province are going in the right direction,” says Ford.
According to Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 seasonal workers employed at 176 farms in the region during peak growing season. WECHU’s medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, issued a class order on June 13, 2020 for farm operators who employ migrant farm workers. Among the list of necessary actions, employers must ensure that all employees are restricted to one workplace, and that no temporary foreign workers may be moved to non-inspected living conditions.
An agri-food worker COVID-19 assessment centre opened in Windsor-Essex earlier last week.
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