The federal and provincial governments are facing a “potential disaster” if more protections and social-distancing guidelines aren’t extended to migrant agricultural workers, advocates say.

The warning comes days after 14 migrant workers at a Kelowna, B.C., nursery tested positive for COVID-19.

The workers all live in on-site housing, and the Interior Health said there was enough space for each resident to safely self-isolate.

Bylands Nursery, which employs the workers, said in a statement posted on its website that it has been “recognized as one of the best employers of temporary foreign workers in B.C.”

There were 13,252 positions for temporary foreign workers approved in B.C. in last year, but the Migrant Workers’ Centre said the actual number of workers could be much higher.

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6:38Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

Coronavirus outbreak: Young people warn others their age to take COVID-19 seriously

Anelyse Weiler, a University of Toronto PhD candidate whose research focuses on migrant agricultural workers, said not enough is being done to protect the vulnerable workers during the pandemic.

“The government needs to ensure they are receiving solid information, that their rights are enforced, that they are receiving income during self-isolation and there are solid logistics in place to self-quarantine,” she said. “If not, we’re looking at a potential disaster.”

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