Isolation Rules Not Enough to Keep a Rotational Worker in N.L

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Some rotational staff claim they have carried some of the heaviest burdens under Newfoundland and Labrador’s COVID-19 restrictions, and at least one of them has it that the struggle has left him with no choice but to move.

Steve Reid, originally from Massey Drive near Corner Brook, works in British Columbia and recently sold his N.L home to relocate to Alberta.

“It’s an incredibly tough decision to make. I made a life and had a home in Newfoundland.… It’s our home, we want to be there,” Reid told Here & Now on Tuesday.

“The fact that we’ve had to isolate, be away from our families, it’s taken an incredible toll on everybody’s mental stability,” he said. “There’s no way to work at home, so what’s the point of having a life at home?”

Reid said he has heard from several rotational employees who feel they are in the same boat, deciding to leave N.L to find work or better conditions that allow them to see their families more often. With the current restrictions, employees can book a COVID-19 test once they arrive in the province and must isolate themselves from family members till their first negative test result is released.

“All we look forward to is going home, relaxing, being with our families.… To take that away, it’s a feeling that is unexplainable,” he said.

“You essentially do not have a life, it’s just steady work.… For a lot of people, it’s been a year of no life. The only way to get rid of that or defeat is sell your home and move to somewhere where there is a life.”

Whereas Reid said he’s glad that rotational workers can now get a form of point-of-entry testing via booking a test after arrival, he says the measure has come a lot late.

“It’s great for everybody that we are now, finally, getting our point of entry test. We’re also getting our vaccines,” he said. “It’s streamlining everything, it seems like it’s great, but essentially we’re going to be out of the works anyway.

“For me, we’re four months too late.”

Months before he sold his home, Reid said, not much has been done by the region’s government to enhance the province’s economy and keep employees in N.L.

“The [COVID] numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador are terrific. It’s wonderful what the government has done … but on the other hand it’s awful what they’ve done to the economy and what they’ve done to a lot of people in the province,” he said. “I can’t pay for a home at home and bills at a home that I don’t go to. I left on Jan. 3, and I haven’t been home yet.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to come to this point. We all want to be there, and the government at this point is forcing the workers to basically pick up their stuff and move away. To me, it’s mind-boggling that we have to do this.”

Premier Andrew Furey has said the rules for rotational employees are enforced to help with the quality of life once they go back home.

“The changes show a willingness to support the families of the rotational workers, so they can develop a less stressful — albeit it’s still gonna be stressful, and I can appreciate that — time of isolation when they return to the province,” Furey said Friday.

“There’s no question it’s a tough situation for them and their families and I can appreciate that. But we hope they still continue to call Newfoundland and Labrador home.”

Reid says the quality of life in places such as Alberta are one of the reasons he’s choosing to leave N.L. Whereas daily case numbers are lower in N.L., he said a shift will help him be able to spend more time with his family and live a better life outside isolation.

“For me personally, it’s a much better decision to sell my house to move on to better and greener pastures.”

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