MOH changes transport rule for migrant workers
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Workers can travel from airport by bus following negative rapid antigen test Author of the article:
Jul 06, 2021 o 55 minutes ago o 2 minute read o
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The Norfolk and Haldimand board of health is supporting changes recommended by the medical officer of health that would allow more temporary farm workers to travel on buses from the airport to local farms.
At a meeting Tuesday, Dr. Alexander Hukowich, acting MOH, outlined a plan that he says will give farmers an extra option to transport workers.
He said farmers who are willing to have workers undergo a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 at the airport and arrange for immediate isolation for anyone who tests positive, will be able to transport a greater number of workers by bus to their farms. Former MOH Dr. Shanker Nesathurai has come under fire for imposing public health orders on the local migrant worker program that do not apply to farmers elsewhere.
These include a cap of three workers per bunkhouse during their mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival regardless of the bunkhouse’s size. Farmers complain that the higher standard in Norfolk and Haldimand makes it difficult to situate their workforces in a timely manner. Then came Nesathurai’s order earlier this year forbidding local farmers from collecting their workers at Pearson International Airport in a bus.
Instead, farmers must deliver workers to the local health district at a maximum of three per vehicle – preferably as a group that will serve their quarantine together. Nesathurai held firm on this even though these same workers, as a group, arrived in Canada on the same plane. “For six weeks I have been considering the whole matter for farms,” said Hukowich. “I have seriously considered all the various interests in what has been done here.”
Hukowich said that prior to Nesathurai’s orders, the rate of infection among workers who arrived in the area was 25 per cent. Following the orders, he said, that rate dropped to three per cent.
“What he did was certainly effective in reducing the number of cases. I met with a number of farmers and listened to their issues to see if there was a reasonable alternative.
“Farmers want no restriction on the number of workers transported or the number in bunkhouses. I don’t think that’s safe, even with a quick test.” Under Hukowich’s plan, workers who test negative at the airport will be allowed to travel on buses with six feet of physical distancing.
There are about 3,400 temporary workers currently in the area. About 3,000 of them have had one dose of vaccine, with about half of them having received two doses. Hukowich said another 1,400 workers are expected to arrive for the peak farming season this month and next.
“We’re making an effort to get them immunized. That’s clearly the answer. They’re not coming here immunized.”
Hukowich didn’t make any changes to the bunkhouse rules.
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