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A worker drives a tractor at Golden Eagle Berry Farm, which is owned by the Aquilini family, in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on May 29, 2019.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The British Columbia Agriculture Ministry says it is ending the COVID-19 quarantine program for temporary foreign workers but will keep a different program for another year to support self-isolation to curb the spread of the virus.

The ministry says the program for seasonal agriculture workers ends Thursday because of the easing of federal travel restrictions and high vaccination rates for incoming workers that allows them to go directly to their farms.

A statement says the employer must ensure federal quarantine requirements are met for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated workers.

The Health Ministry reported six deaths related to COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,996.

The province saw a slight climb in the number of hospitalizations with 276 people in hospital and 43 in intensive care.

On Tuesday, there were 273 people in hospital and 46 in intensive care.

Federal-provincial support for the self-isolation of temporary foreign workers will still be available until next March through a program that pays a maximum of $3,000 per employee, based on all the costs linked to a 14-day isolation period.

The ministry says its $47-million quarantine program protected B.C.’s food security during the pandemic by ensuring farms had access to the labour they needed and local food continued to be grown and harvested.

More than 15,000 temporary foreign workers went through the program and the ministry says 233 were diagnosed with COVID-19 while in quarantine.

“This shows the important role the program played in preventing workers with symptoms from travelling to farms and communities or causing larger outbreaks, as well as preventing associated economic losses and interruptions to the B.C. food supply,” the statement says.

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