Broad testing has shown the extent of COVID-19 infections at the various agri-food businesses hit hard by the disease.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced April 28 that testing of workers at United Poultry in Vancouver and Superior Poultry in Coquitlam had yielded a total of 80 cases.
The two plants represent a small proportion of chicken processed in BC, but outbreaks at the plants come at a time of growing fears regarding the stability of meat supplies in North America. Approximately eight plants across Canada have been shut down as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks, disrupting supply chains nationally.
Plant closures in the U.S. are also raising alarm bells. While demand for meat has remained strong to date, processors are the linch-pin between farm and plate.
Meanwhile, the outbreak at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. in West Kelowna had risen to 23 confirmed infections. Interior Health Authority placed the farm under a health order on March 27, and it remains in place.
The rules governing farm workers tightened last week, with Henry issuing an order to remain in their accommodations on days off and “avoid unnecessary visits to public establishments.” The order is in place indefinitely.
This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said provinces have the right to set the rules for seasonal workers.
“The different provinces will have their own approach,” he said in his daily briefing on April 28, speaking through a translator. “There is a different reality in every place, and in terms of the different measures the province brings in they will make their own choices within their own jurisdiction that they believe are the best ones for their citizens.”