Manitoba Hydro cutting staff at Keeyask Generating Station amid positive COVID-19 cases

The massive, multi-billion-dollar Keeyask Generating Station construction project in Manitoba’s north will see another slowdown in progress as Manitoba Hydro plans to reduce staff there to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It comes as Hydro says there have been five positive tests among the 764 workers at the site, along with 12 tests deemed “not clear.”

The Crown corporation uses a private lab to provide an initial screening. Any screening test indicating a “not clear” result is then verified by a second test through Manitoba’s Cadham Provincial Laboratory before it is confirmed as a positive case.

Plans for reducing the number of people on the site are in the works this weekend, according to Hydro CEO Jay Grewal.

“We’re taking this proactive precautionary measure to stop the spread of the virus. We’ll continue to work with our partner communities to support their individual pandemic response plans.”

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In the meantime, Hydro has stopped importing new workers to the site, with the exception of those deemed critical to site operation.

Hydro says Manitoba-based workers are screened upon their arrival, with those coming from areas under level orange on the province’s pandemic response system monitored twice daily for symptoms.

Starting Monday, the entire province is moving to the orange level of restrictions, while Winnipeg will be under tougher, red-level restrictions.

Workers from outside of Canada isolate for two weeks upon their arrival and have to pass a COVID-19 test before travelling to the site.

The pandemic has already cost Manitoba Hydro tens of millions of dollars due to revenue shortfalls.

Read more: Manitoba Hydro facing multi-million-dollar revenue shortfall due to coronavirus

A blockade set up by Indigenous groups earlier this summer fearing Hydro workers would spread COVID-19 to their communities lasted over a week, with Hydro estimating the resulting shutdown cost the Crown corporation around $1.7 million per day.

No timeline has been established for when regular work rotations will resume following the temporary reduction.

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Grewal says that will be determined in accordance with guidance from public health officials.

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