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Contractors, governments formulate coronavirus response, but construction sites remain open, for now


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March 17, 2020 by David Kennedy

Canada is nearing 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. PHOTO: Adobe Stock/ Freshidea

Restaurants, bars, theatres, concert venues and other high-traffic areas have been ordered to shut or severely limit the number of people coming through their doors in Canada’s most populous provinces. Schools, libraries and daycares sit empty as efforts to curb the further spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus, bring cities to a near standstill. Nearly 500 cases of the virus have now been confirmed coast to coast.

For the time being, however, most construction sites remain open.

The worsening coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic last week, has been quickly spreading across Canada, pushing health authorities to escalate their responses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shut Canadian borders to all foreign nationals other than Americans March 16, saying the exceptional circumstances call for exceptional measures.

A day later, Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario, though he insisted the measures stop short of constituting a provincial shutdown. The emergency order leaves just essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit and manufacturing facilities, open.

“We’re facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Ford said. “This was a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions.”

As they have in other regions of the country, construction sites will also be allowed to remain open in Ontario in spite of the order.

British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have taken similar steps.

The B.C. government said it was suspending all in-class instruction at schools indefinitely this afternoon, for instance, while Alberta announced plans to declare a state of public health emergency that would limit gatherings to fewer than 50 people and cap the number of customers at restaurants and bars. In Quebec, where the provincial government was quicker to act, busy public places were urged to close March 15.

Though job sites are not yet facing specific restrictions, contractors are taking a proactive approach. Some sites have been closed, according to the Ontario General Contractors Association. In many other cases, workers that aren’t needed on-site have been given the option to work from home, as they have in other industries. Travel has been essentially halted and meetings kept to a minimum.

One prominent West Coast job site is greatly reducing on-site workers as a temporary measure. The JGC Corp. and Fluor Corp. joint venture heading the LNG Canada project in Kitimat, B.C. said staff levels will be reduced to about half their current levels over the next week.

“This will entail reducing the number of workers flying in on rotation,” company said in a release. “If necessary, LNG Canada, JFJV and site contractors will implement a final reduction of staff working on site to critical levels required to maintain site security and environmental controls.”

A number of other major general contractors noted their sites remain open, but they have implemented crisis response plans and are watching developments closely.


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1 Comment » for Contractors, governments formulate coronavirus response, but construction sites remain open, for now
  1. Dik Coates says:

    With the lack of testing by the Americans, our borders should be closed to them immediately. Trudeau is putting Canadians at risk.

    Dik

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