Temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector are a priority for the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, says federal employment minister and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended the move as part of measures to address COVID-19 among vulnerable populations, including those in congregate housing.
“NACI has recommended that essential workers and anyone living in congregate spaces should be prioritized in Stage 2 of vaccinations, and that includes temporary foreign workers,” Qualtrough said last week in announcing funding of $17 million from the federal Emergency Food Processing Fund to assist 117 food processors in BC make COVID-19-realted safety upgrades.
Qualtrough said Ottawa is working with all stakeholders, including providing funding for initiatives aimed at keeping migrant workers and communities safe.
“We are putting in place the same measures that we learned were the most impactful last year,” she said. “We’ve definitely learned a lot. I’ve heard over the past weeks that people are more comfortable, obviously, going into this season than they were last season, because it was literally on the fly last season.”
An announcement regarding federal quarantine requirements for incoming foreign workers is expected this week. A three-week exemption from the provisions of quarantine requirements that took effect February 21 ends March 14, a period designed to give Ottawa time to work out funding arrangements with the provinces that would ease the burden on employers.
“We’ve done a really good job I think in the past year of working with industry on the quarantine measures around TFWs,” said Qualtrough, who has spoken with the Delta Farmers Institute and horticultural organizations on the file.
“I can’t scoop what we’re going to be announcing,” she told Country Life in BC, “but it will reflect, absolutely, what we’ve heard from industry in terms of their preferences with how to proceed.”