Hubert Pomerleau picks Red Delicious apples from an orchard in Summerland in this 2016 photo. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fruit growers throughout British Columbia will face additional challenges. (Summerland Review file photo)

Safe, clean campsites to be made available for seasonal fruit pickers in Okanagan

One campsite is planned for the Oliver area in the southern Okanagan and two more are slated for Creston

The B.C. government says it is moving to protect residents and seasonal workers from COVID-19 while ensuring the temporary labourers have a safe place to stay as they work in orchards and fields this summer.

A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture says it is providing funds to local governments to create designated campsite accommodations.

The sites would meet health and safety requirements set by the provincial health officer to slow the spread of COVID-19.

One campsite is planned for the Oliver area in the southern Okanagan and two more are slated for Creston in southeastern B.C., with the province providing about $60,000 for each site.

The ministry says seasonal workers must also complete a new online COVID-19 awareness course outlining the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers to meet B.C.’s pandemic-related rules.

Camping accommodations are also being explored in Summerland, Osoyoos, Naramata and the Similkameen.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says creation of the campsites is a step toward ensuring community safety as well as the safety of seasonal workers, who are a “crucial part” of B.C.’s food supply system.

“Our government is protecting these workers and local residents by making sure workers have a safe place to camp and are educated on the rules and guidelines Dr. Bonnie Henry has put in place here in British Columbia,” Popham says in the statement.

The COVID-19 awareness course for seasonal workers includes information on physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, work pods, transportation, tools and equipment, as well as safeguarding and monitoring health, the ministry says.

The course must be completed by any seasonal worker planning to stay at the campsites.

The Canadian Press

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