Shortly before B.C. rang in the new year, Dr. Bonnie Henry sent a stern message to LNG Canada in Kitimat, warning that its worksite poses serious health risks to the province.
“I have reason to believe and do believe,” B.C.’s provincial health officer wrote to LNG Canada on December 29, “that the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 arising from the mass return of large numbers of workers to worksites and industrial camps associated with the Projects constitutes a health hazard under the Public Health Act.”
The provincial order was also sent to the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, the Site C Dam, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Rio Tinto Kemano project.
It warns that these projects have become potent sources of coronavirus outbreaks, potentially causing “transmission of COVID-19 to surrounding communities, including Indigenous communities, increasing the risk of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and deaths in the Northern Health Authority region.”
The order limits the workforce at these five industrial projects to prevent COVID spread from happening. From an initial baseline of 450 workers, LNG Canada can increase its workforce to 1100 by late January.
But before this can happen, the order explains, “the Project Manager must submit a restart plan to me, and to the Chief Medical Health Officer for Northern Health Authority, which sets out how the increase in the number of workers will be managed so as not to increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19, both onsite and in the surrounding communities.”
The Kitimat-based LNG project has been a major source of outbreaks in the Skeena Region, resulting in dozens of cases over the past few months. An additional outbreak in December, which caused 16 employees to be infected, hasn’t resulted in new cases over the holidays, according to Northern Health.