“I got the infection myself”: a farmer’s story about corona-infected berry pickers

This year, in order to be eligible to hire seasonal workers, a special agreement had to be concluded with the regional authorities.

Mass infection among Thai berry pickers in Kainuu and North Pohjanmaa did not come as a surprise to the farmer. Due to the poor epidemiological situation in Thailand, everything was thought out to the smallest detail: accommodation, transportation and quarantine measures. The farmer agreed to speak on condition of anonymity about the development of the situation.

Thais arrived in Finland on 19 July. In Thailand, they were pre-tested for coronavirus and received the first dose of the vaccine. In Helsinki, they were tested for the first time in Finland, and all tests showed negative results. Then the foreign workers were transported to a temporary accommodation center in North Pohyangmaa. They spent three days there. At this time, a second test took place, the results of which were awaited for two days.

And then they came. At first, two infections were discovered. Then it turned out that a covid was found on a passenger who was on the same flight with the berry pickers. Those infected and those in direct contact with them were transported to a separate building, but it was too late.

The farmer demanded another massive test, and it has already shown 44 new infections. The total number of infected has reached 53.

– I myself became infected, – the farmer complains.

Together with the medical authorities, he organized the work of the collectors so that outsiders were not exposed to the risk of infection. Those who feel normal can pick berries, but are not allowed to leave the camp and go to the store. The harvested berries cannot transmit the coronavirus.

The farmer says he will suffer financial losses due to this situation. Whereas pickers used to be paid for the amount of berries harvested, now they are entitled to a minimum salary even if they are unable to work.

This year, the system of recruiting personnel for agricultural work has become more complicated due to the pandemic. In order to be able to invite workers from abroad, it was necessary to conclude a special agreement with the regional labor exchange. The contract spells out the conditions for the safe work of foreigners from the point of view of the spread of coronavirus. There were 33 such entrepreneurs in Sevrna Pohjanmaa.