KITCHENER -- Southwestern Public Health has issued an order to protect farm workers from COVID-19 in Elgin County, Oxford County, and St. Thomas.

Dr. Joyce Lock, Medical Officer of Health for Southwestern Public Health, said the order was issued due to the high number of outbreaks on farms in regions across the province.

“This is a targeted, proactive measure intended to reduce the spread of COVID19 and ensure the health of these workers,” said Lock in a news release issued on Wednesday.

The order, issued under Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, will be in effectuntil further notice.

It includes a list of 22 measures that farms will have to follow if they employ migrant workers, temporary foreign workers, local workers or workers from temporary help agencies.

The measures cover physical-distancing practices, guidelines for accommodations, screening practices, and keeping accurate and updated contact information.

If farm operators do not follow the requirements of this order, they can be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

The move from Southwestern Public Health follows similar moves made in Norfolk County and Brant County.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is monitoring four outbreaks at agri-farm facilities.

On Wednesday, there were 45 new cases of COVID-19 in the sector alone, compared to just two in the rest of the community.

Persistent outbreaks in Essex County have led to calls from a migrant worker advocacy group to call for the stoppage of the entire sector.