Ontario Pork has heard from farmers concerned about how to manage COVID-19 concerns on their farms. Staff at Ontario Pork are closely monitoring global developments related to the pandemic, and will post updates here and to the organization’s news section daily. In addition, any significant developments related to the swine sector will be shared via email and social media.
The below posters about COVID-19 awareness and prevention can be printed and posted in your barn or workplace. In addition, helpful, up-to-date information related to COVID-19 and livestock agriculture in Canada is summarized below. Please navigate this guide via the links below.
Advice from CAHRC
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC) has created a dedicated website to provide updates and advice for farmers and farm businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Visit the CAHRC website for updates: https://cahrc-ccrha.ca/programs/emerging-agriworkforce-issues/information-and-updates-coronavirus-covid-19
Below is information from CAHRC about COVID-19, which you may find helpful in your on-farm operations.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)
How do we Manage on the Farm?
- Ensure your workers have access to information about proper protocol (e.g. hand washing) to limit transmission.
- Ensure your workers are aware of their responsibility to properly notify you if they are feeling unwell or of any risk of exposure to COVID-19 they may have encountered.
- Communicate clearly with your workers about your expectations regarding sick leave.
- Remind employees of HR policies during this pandemic, specifically around sick leave. If you do not have formal policies in place, templates are available in the AgriHR Toolkit.
- Depending on the existing policy, it may be required to extend sick leave beyond the current policy to ensure workers with symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19 are not stressed by a financial burden.
- Ensure that workers with symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19 are supported to self-isolate.
- Do not provide information regarding the name, date of birth, or other identifiers of any workers diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. Your workers are entitled to privacy under Canadian privacy legislation.
- Do provide information to your workers if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Managing the Risk to the Work Environment
- Limit or restrict visitors to the farm or business operation.
- Implement a hand-washing regime for all employees.
- Clean frequently used surfaces with hospital grade disinfectant.
- Ensure employees are informed of the risks, symptoms, steps to self-isolate.
- Consider restricting travel (business or leisure) and ask employees to self-isolate upon returning home from international travel.
- Businesses that are receiving foreign workers should monitor advisories from the government departments responsible for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
- Continue to follow recommendations provided around maintaining biosecurity and food safety standards.
- Businesses that provide housing for their workers will need to ensure their risk management plan considers large numbers of employees being quarantined or requiring health care.
- Ensure risk management and operational plans include pandemic plans for HR management. Having a risk management plan in place for dealing with events that may cause a crisis to the staff available to work will ensure that when/if that happens there is a structured, controlled response to it.
- These type of plans should include identifying decision makers, roles and responsibilities, access to medical care, plans for both quarantine or transportation to medical facilities. They should also include communications planning such as who is the point of contact, medical contacts, internal and external communication plans, contact information for all staff, suppliers, community services.
- The risk management plan should also identify what to do if staff are not available to conduct time sensitive work (e.g. milking, strawberry picking) when not enough employees are available to do the work because of sickness. This may include having agreements with surrounding farmers for back up support.
Working with Animals
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have contact with animals:
- avoid close contact with them
- avoid coughing and sneezing on the animals
- have another member of your staff care for the animals
- if this is not possible, always wash your hands before touching or feeding them
* Source: Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council
Swine Health Ontario
Some questions and answers about Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and swine. Swine Health Ontario would like to share some key concepts and definitions to help you navigate the information already circulating.
What is a Coronavirus?
A coronavirus refers to a member of a large family of viruses named Coronaviridae. These viruses can cause disease in a variety of animal species. Some examples of important coronaviruses are: the Human Coronavirus, which causes the common cold; Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, which causes diarrhea and mortality in young piglets; and Avian Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV), causing respiratory infection in chickens. Coronaviruses important for humans are alphacoronaviruses (common cold) and betacoronaviruses (COVID-19). Evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 was originally a virus from bats that now infects humans.
Can humans be infected with the coronaviruses commonly found in swine?
There is no evidence of humans becoming infected with coronaviruses found in swine.
Can humans give COVID-19 to pigs?
Currently, there is no research that suggests pigs are susceptible to COVID-19. All producers have the ultimate responsibility to protect the health of animals under their care, and are encourage to review their farm-level biosecurity plan for their operation. If you are exhibiting clinical signs that could be compatible with COVID-19 e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing you should be isolated from contact with other people and animals based on the recommendations provided by your local public health unit.
COVID-19 in Animals
COVID-19 is a virus affecting humans. There is currently no evidence to suggest that this virus is circulating in animals in Canada. There is no evidence animals can spread the virus. There are still many unknowns about COVID-19. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting clinical signs that could be associated with COVID-19, or are experiencing other illnesses such as the flu, and have contact with animals:
- avoid close contact with them
- have another member of your staff care for the animals
- if this is not possible, always wash your hands before touching or feeding them
- wear a mask that will protect others around you that you are in contact with
For more Information:
Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA)
The CFA has the following recommendations for those working with livestock during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- While a recent study suggests that the virus that causes COVID-19 may have the potential to infect some types of animals, similar to what is known for SARS-CoV, there is currently no evidence that other domestic animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people. There are still many unknowns about this newly emerged coronavirus and this is an area that remains to be studied and understood.
- Those handling live animals and animal products should practice good personal hygiene, including frequent hand washing after touching animals and animal products. They should consider wearing protective gowns, gloves, masks while professionally handling animals and fresh animal products. Equipment and working stations should be disinfected frequently, at least once a day.
- Protective clothing should be removed after work and washed daily. Workers should avoid exposing family members to soiled work clothing, shoes, or other items that may have come into contact with potentially contaminated material. It is therefore recommended that protective clothes and items remain at the workplace for daily washing.
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:
Will processing plants continue to operate in Ontario/Canada?
- Yes. The federal and provincial governments have stressed the importance of maintaining Canada’s food supply. In introducing a State of Emergency in Ontario on March 17, Premier Doug Ford stated that most businesses and factories would remain open. Ontario Pork is in regular contact with processing partners, transporters and others in the industry, and is preparing contingency plans for the movement of hogs out of province, if this becomes necessary.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has activated its business continuity plan. While discussions continue to understand the full impact at the plant level, CFIA has temporarily suspending low-risk activities that do not immediately impact food production or safety. CFIA will prioritize critically important services. More information.
- The pork industry appreciates that inspection services have been identified as a priority for CFIA employees. Plants will continue to work with the CFIA Veterinarian-in-Charge at each site, to facilitate overtime and weekend shifts as required.
- The Canadian Meat Council has released an infographic showcasing the measures taken by the industry to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Can I continue to export my hogs under current border restrictions?
- Yes. On March 18, the Government of Canada announced that the U.S.-Canada border would be closed to non-essential travel (tourism and recreation) – likely beginning overnight between Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21. This follows earlier international travel restrictions announced on March 16. The movement of goods and services across the border is not limited. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have reinforced that travel restrictions and closures will not impact the flow of trade.
Will feed, livestock transport and other support services continue to operate as usual under the current restrictions?
- Companies across the industry are taking steps to reduce the risk of disease for their staff and customers. Service restrictions or limitations will be determined by each company. Some businesses many opt to close retail operations, or avoid person-to-person contact. Reach out to your suppliers to discuss your options.
Will financial support be available to farms/ businesses impacted by the outbreak?
- On March 18, the Government of Canada introduced $27 billion in direct support for Canadian workers and businesses, along with $55 billion in tax deferrals in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ontario Pork will continue to work with our industry and government partners to understand how these programs could best benefit the pork sector. Among the highlights of the announcement: Eligible small businesses will be able to access a temporary wage subsidy for 10% of payroll for three months, in order to prevent lay-offs, and the near-term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will be increased through Farm Credit Canada.
- Major Canadian banks have also introduced new programs that may allow deferral of mortgage payments and flexibility in lending agreements.
- There will be new measures to support farmers and agri-food businesses facing financial impacts of COVID-19, including $5 billion in lending capacity for producers, agribusinesses and food processors.
Is financial compensation available to employees unable to work?
- Employment and Social Development Canada has taken several steps to make it easier for people quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure to access employment insurance. These steps include waiving the one-week waiting period to receive benefits, and creating dedicated points of contact for those affected by COVID-19. New programs will also increase available support for Canadians without paid sick leave or those who do not qualify for employment insurance benefits, as well as for individuals who lose their job or face reduced hours as a result of COVID-19.
- More information can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#individual
How will travel restrictions impact the Temporary Foreign Workers program?
What happens if illness on-farm prevents me from being able to care for our animals?
- Some companies supporting the pork industry have teams or resources available to help barns operate in times of crisis. Given the extent of the COVID-19 situation, these resources may be limited. If you need help, reach out to suppliers, or contact Ontario Pork’s industry and member services team.
Is Ontario Pork continuing to offer services to producers during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- Ontario Pork continues to operate all services. In an effort to reduce office density, staff have been offered the option of rotating between home and office locations. As Ontario Pork limits visitors to the office, please call ahead if you plan to visit.
- We have received recommendations from the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) to postpone on-farm visits related to full validations on the CQA and CPE programs (PigSAFE|PigCARE). We encourage producers to complete their site manager training online.
- Ontario Pork will still be processing orders for PigTrace individual ID ear tags; however, we will no longer be accepting office pickups at this time. Please allow 7-10 business days for delivery. You can also order through the PigTrace website: https://pigtrace.traceability.ca/ by logging in and selecting “My Orders” > “Create an Order”
Biosecurity during COVID-19
- Limit farm entry to personnel performing essential activities (i.e. those required for the care and wellbeing of the animals, workers and facilities).
- People who are sick or have signs of illness (e.g. fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, tiredness, shortness of breath) should stay home and call a doctor or healthcare provider.
- Upon entering the farm, immediately wash hands with soap for 20 seconds.
- Follow farm established procedures to disinfect incoming materials. Handle the materials with disposable gloves, if available.
- Avoid close physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging. If possible, maintain two metres of distance between people at all times.
- Limit interactions with people outside of work:
- Avoid travel
- Do not carpool or limit carpooling to essential situations
- Limit travel to essential locations (i.e groceries and pharmacies)
- In mechanically ventilated buildings or rooms, increase ventilation rates to increase the number of air exchanges of the rooms and hallways (i.e showers, breakrooms, bathrooms).
- In naturally ventilated areas, open outside windows (while following biosecurity protocols) to increase air circulation in the area.
- Consider adjusting schedules to avoid likelihood of infection of all workers at the same time. For instance, split employees into morning/ afternoon shifts, alternating days, or other schedules that facilitate segregation of personnel while attending the needs of the farm.
- Keep workers separated in designated areas and functions to limit interactions.
- Stagger arrival of workers and break times so workers do not congregate in the common spaces.
- Limit number of face-to-face meetings. Consider alternatives such as conference calls or email.
- Clean showers and breakroom, and disinfect surfaces regularly.
- Wash and dry shared materials (e.g. towels, kitchen utensils, pens) between uses.
- Clean and disinfect common spaces after each group of people, and at the end of the day.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (ie. workstations, countertops, fridge/freezer doors, light switches and doorknobs). Use appropriate cleaning agents and follow label directions.
- When handling clothing and towels, wear gloves and disinfect clothing hampers.
WASH YOUR HANDS!
- Wash hands frequently.
- Wash hands with soap for 20 seconds prior to eating or entering common area spaces. Hand sanitizer is recommended if washing with soap is not available.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands or gloves.
Working with suppliers
- Ensure a distance of a minimum of two metres between yourself and other individuals.
- Notify your transporter, feed mill and other suppliers if you, an employee or a family member:
- Has travelled outside Canada within the previous 14 days
- Is ill with flu-like symptoms
- Has been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
If any of these conditions are present, these individuals must stay away from drivers or suppliers. Maintain self-isolation and avoid being present for loading or unloading.
Printable Posters about COVID-19 (Click to Expand)
Please see here for additional, printable posters from the government.