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Seniors' care, temporary foreign workers at forefront of new federal COVID-19 measures

FILE - Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a press conference on COVID-19 at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Monday, March 16, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

A new federal support provides employers will $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to help them comply

New guidelines now require visitors to wear masks at care homes

Care home employees will be limited to working at one facility, where possible: minister

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The federal government announced $50 million Monday to help the food sector handle a mandatory 14-day isolation period for temporary foreign workers, as well as new guidelines for long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latter includes increased screening and additional cleaning, said Minister for Seniors Deb Schulte.

“Unfortunately, we have seen many long-term care homes in Canada experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, with some facilities reporting multiple deaths. This is heart-breaking,” she said.

“Residents of long-term care are vulnerable to infections due to their communal living spaces, shared health-care providers, exposure to external visitors and transfer from other health-care facilities.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada developed the new guidelines in consultation with provinces and territories.

Key recommendations include restricting entry to only visitors and volunteers deemed essential for basic, medical or compassionate residential care, as well as implementing screenings for all of them. They will also be required to wear masks at care homes.

Staff developing any symptoms are to be tested for COVID-19, while employees will be limited to working at one facility, where possible, Schulte said.

She applauded care facilities that have already implemented some or all of the new guidelines.

“Providing consistent guidance for long-term care homes across the country will help save lives,” Schulte added.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said close to half of the more than 700 COVID-19 deaths in Canada are linked to long-term care facilities.

“These deaths will continue to increase even as the epidemic growth rate slows down,” she added.

To date, Canada has recorded more than 24,000 cases of the virus, with 7,400 resolved.

Physical distancing is proven to reduce the number of people infected, Tam said.

“And once low enough, the epidemic will run out of fuel,” she added.

“We cannot prevent every death, but we must prevent every death we can. We need to protect our seniors.”

The federal government also announced measures to protect the food sector industry.

The $50-million is to help employers handle the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for temporary foreign workers arriving from abroad.

“Like all foreign nationals arriving to Canada during the COVID-19 crisis, they must follow a strict mandatory, 14-day isolation period,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said through a translator. “These isolation rules come with a cost to businesses.”

The new federal support provides employers will $1,500 per worker to help them comply with health and safety measures ordered under the Quarantine Act.

“Employers or workers who do not comply will face severe sanctions and fines,” she said.

Bibeau added the industry faced a labour shortage even before the pandemic, with thousands of jobs still available in the food sector.