Foreign workers to lose some travel exemptions in March

An image created by Nexu Science Communication, together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus, the type of virus linked to COVID-19. (Nexu Science Communication via Reuters)

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) travelling to Canada won’t need to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel when they get here – for now — but by mid-March, Ottawa will put more stringent measures in place.

Starting Feb. 22, non-essential travellers and essential workers arriving in Canada will be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival. Non-essential travellers are required to stay in a hotel for three days as they await the results of that test, with costs to be paid out-of-pocket.

Essential workers are allowed to immediately travel, under supervision of their employer, to the location of their planned 14-day quarantine.

That will change in mid-March, when foreign workers will be required to wait for negative COVID test results in a government-approved facility, like everyone else.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said at a press conference Friday the temporary deferral of a mandatory, government-supervised quarantine was to allow her government to consult with stakeholders and producers to come up with a “tailored solution” for the industry.

“We are giving a heads-up of one month to the producers on what are the additional measures that have been put in place, and we’re working with them and the provinces to make it happen as smoothly as possible, and at no cost for the workers or the producers,” she said.

Bibeau said the government will cover the costs of the additional tests workers will be required to take — and the costs of hotel stays for the workers as well.

“We will have this conversation with each and every province; the cost may vary,” she said, adding the cost of the hotel stay for non-essential travellers is estimated to be $2,000.

Bibeau said she has already started consulting with provinces on what the new measures will look like in March.

“I understand how challenging this time is for (farmers) who rely on migrant workers,” she said.

Producers have criticized the federal government for failing to consult them on pandemic-related decisions, which they say would allow Ottawa to better understand how its decisions will impact farm families.

— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.

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