The B.C. government has announced that the quarantine program for seasonal agricultural temporary foreign workers will be coming to an end this week.
The program, which has been in place for the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to end on Thursday, March 31.
The provincial government says that the program has served its purpose but with the easing of federal travel restrictions and 97 per cent of incoming workers being fully vaccinated, there is no need for it to continue at this time.
Starting April 1, arriving workers will be able to travel directly to their farms and it will be the employer’s responsibility to ensure federal quarantine requirements are met for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
The Province notes that support for the self-isolation of temporary foreign workers through the B.C. Farm Worker Safe Isolation Program will continue to be available to farmers. This program reimburses employers to a maximum of $3,000 per farm worker, based on a 14-day isolation period, for costs associated with providing accommodation and other support to workers who need to self-isolate.
The provincially-funded quarantine program totalled a $47-million investment, says the government, made in an effort to help protect B.C.’s food security during the pandemic.
The quarantine program included funding for accommodations, culturally appropriate meals, laundry, volunteer-led wellness walks, interpretation and translation services, health screening and other necessary supports in order to ensure farms had access to the labour they needed.
More than 15,000 workers went through the program with 233 workers diagnosed with COVID-19 while in quarantine.
B.C. says it anticipates returning to pre-pandemic numbers for seasonal agricultural temporary foreign workers in 2022, which is approximately 11,000 workers.