A provincial initiative designed to curb COVID-19 continues to prove useful this winter as a host of respiratory illnesses afflict or threaten BC residents.
To protect farm workers, the provincially funded BC Farm Worker Safe Isolation Program remains available to farm employers who wish to isolate workers at a hotel to prevent the spread of illness.
“Agriculture employers may apply for up to $3,000 for each farm worker to safely isolate in a hotel,” the province states.
Staff with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food said demand for the program has varied from month to month. Data for this fall’s respiratory virus season was not available, but the province reports that the program supported the isolation of 106 workers in the 12 months ended August 2022, the last month for which data is available.
The program was launched in April 2021 following on the success of the provincially funded mandatory quarantine program for temporary foreign workers established a year earlier.
The mandatory quarantine program provided a way for foreign workers to continue to come to the province while limiting the risk of their introducing COVID-19 to the farms and communities where they worked. Workers were quarantined for 14 days prior to travelling to work sites.
The province says more than 15,000 workers participated in the quarantine program at a cost of $47 million. It declined to say how much had been spent since the mandatory quarantine requirement was lifted at the end of March 2022.
More recently, the BC Centre for Disease Control has flagged the risk of enterovirus/rhinovirus (ERV), influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to humans this winter as well as the potential for workers in close contact with live poultry to contract avian influenza from infected birds.