COVID rules relaxed for offshore oil workers, as N.L. marks no new cases

Newfoundland and Labrador is recording zero new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking the third day in a row without a new case, as the province's oil regulator loosened its regulations to again allow non-essential employees to work on offshore sites.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board suspended a measure it first placed upon the industry on March 22, when it limited such operations to essential workers only.

In a news release, the C-NLOPB cited the continued lifting of public health restraints around workers as satisfying its chief safety officer that "there is now a lower risk to workers."

With non-essential workers now allowed to return to their jobs, the C-NLOPB stressed diligent sanitation measures were still required, both from workers and their companies.

It also said the change could be temporary and if circumstances change, restrictions could once again be imposed.

When asked about it Tuesday after question period, Health Minister John Haggie said he wasn't aware of the change, but would provide a comment on it once he has seen it.

When asked how many workers were affected by the initial order back in March, and the subsequent one issued Tuesday, a spokesperson for the CNLOPB couldn't provide that information.

"It would be best if you contacted each individual operator to obtain the number of workers affected by the order in March, as they are responsible for managing the number of workers onboard each facility," Lesley Rideout wrote in an email in response to CBC's questions.

Who gets to come back to work is determined by the individual operators, Rideout added.

Half a year of COVID

The province has passed the six-month mark of the pandemic, having registered its first case on March 14. The province's total caseload stands at 271, with 266 recoveries and three deaths.

On Sept. 9, public health regulations changed to shorten the self-isolation requirements for rotational workers from Newfoundland and Labrador who work in Canada but outside the Atlantic Bubble, which involves the four Atlantic provinces.

Qualifying workers can now be tested for COVID-19 as of day five of their rotation, and if they reach day seven and have a negative test result, can move freely outside their household.

Previously those workers were required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Also this week, Newfoundland and Labrador MHAs returned to the House of Assembly to debate an interim supply bill from a government with a new premier who doesn't have a seat in the legislature. The Liberal government plans to unveil its budget Sept. 30 — months later than usual, due to the pandemic.

Tuesday's COVID-19 update was provided by a press release from the provincial government, which will hold its next live briefing Wednesday.

There have been 35,791 people tested since March, including 321 in the last 24 hours.

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