#Ontario; #FarmWorkers; #CoronavirusOutbreak; #MigrantWorkers
Ontario, Jul 2 (Canadian-Media): Close to 1,000 migrant farm workers were sickened with three deaths in Ontario's Windsor-Essex due to an outbreak of the coronavirus, media reports said.
Covid-19 Pandemic. Image credit: Twitter handle
Ontario's Windsor-Essex region with agriculture as a big business has more than 175 farms, greenhouses and wineries and contracting some 8,000 official migrant workers to help raise and harvest the crops every year.
With spike of coronavirus cases among farm workers last week, a three-point "action plan" was unveiled by Ontario Premier Doug Ford which included dispatching mobile testing units to farms, promising benefits and support for ill workers who are put in quarantine, and modifying rules to allow farmers to keep asymptomatic labourers on the job.
But since undocumented workers are not covered by these measures, there is a growing fear and concern that these workers are unlikely to present themselves for testing since they don't qualify for free provincial health care or any sort of government employment assistance.
This gap could make it more difficult to bring the farm outbreak under control, given the large number of so-called paperless labourers in the area.
It also makes it difficult to lift the Stage 1 of the pandemic lockdown to which Leamington, Ont., and neighbouring Kingsville are stuck at.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed July 3 that the province's emergency management team has been deployed to Windsor-Essex.
"It's all hands on deck," he said, during a daily COVID-19 briefing on Jul 3. "I want to try to help them, I feel terrible for the situation they're in."
Ford says the province's emergency management team is collaborating with members of the Canadian Red Cross already in the area, as well as Public Health Ontario, to look at the grave situation of COVID-19 cases among agri-farm workers in the region.
During the briefing, Ford also apologized for criticizing migrant workers during his briefing Thursday, when he said they were hiding from efforts to retest them for COVID-19.
Speaking at the same press briefing on Jul 3, Ontario's chief coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer explained that the emergency management team is helping coordinate care, accommodations, as well as food for workers at the facility.