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Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton sits in the legislature, in Toronto, on Sept. 14, 2020.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s labour minister says the province is ramping up COVID-19 safety inspections on farms ahead of the new growing season.

Monte McNaughton says hundreds of inspectors will visit farms to ensure COVID-19 safety measures are being followed to protect temporary foreign workers arriving in the coming weeks.

The province says there were approximately 20,500 temporary foreign workers in Ontario last year and most resided in communal living quarters on farms.

McNaughton says inspections of these living quarters is the duty of the federal government.

The province says that more than 1,780 temporary foreign workers in Ontario tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 – and three died of the virus.

McNaughton could not say if Ontario will provide the COVID-19 vaccine to temporary foreign workers.

Ontario reported 1,670 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 49 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 450 new cases in Toronto, 342 in Peel Region, and 171 in York Region.

She said that nearly 55,200 tests were completed since the last daily update.

Ontario also reported that 9,513 more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine had been administered since Tuesday’s update. A total of 305,330 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province so far.

There have been 260,370 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario since the pandemic began and 5,958 people have died from the virus.

Ontario is pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on administering the shots to all nursing home residents amid a shortage of doses. Premier Doug Ford says the change of focus comes as the province deals with delays in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with no shots expected to arrive this week.

The Canadian Press

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