Miners working in oilfields operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) 70 kilometers north of Fort McMurray say they are living and working in conditions that expose them to COVID-19.
The mines were declared a COVID-19 outbreak in October 2020 after 1, 361 people were infected. Alberta Health Services reported 447 active cases on Wednesday, including two deaths. This is the largest actives case in Alberta according to Tom McMillan, the Health spokesperson.
A contractor who has asked not to be named says that they are working without physical distancing, and lack sanitization and testing. On Wednesday, CNRL released a statement saying they are coordinating with AHS to contain the spread of the virus in two of its sites.
CNRL further affirmed that their protocols exceed those established by AHS. The company is adopting measures that include rapid testing, daily checks, and organizing the vaccination of workers.
Since the beginning of the third wave, many workers have been quarantined in worker housing zones. According to Horizon contractor, the housing zones and quarantine camps were full last month and infected workers had to be taken to nearby hotels.
Outbreaks were declared on Wednesday in 19 sites, work camps in the Wood Buffalo region. The region municipality declared a local state of emergency in April that is still in effect.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the Alberta chief medical officer of health said that AHS is in contact with oilsands to ensure outbreaks are under control and workers are immunized. AHS says it inspected CNRL Horizon on 16th March and found some areas of concern. AHS encouraged further physical distancing and sanitization in heavy equipment operation cabins.
Horizon contractor says that cases surged in April after hundreds of workers were brought from across Canada. According to a woman working at the Albian site, lack of pay during isolation makes workers ignore their symptoms and continue working even when they are infected.