Life in isolation

International offshore workers spend two weeks quarantined away from family before life returns to some sort of normal. 

Many international offshore workers are now having to complete a two-week quarantine under federal regulations when returning home from work. Some workers live in their basements for two weeks. Family dinners still happen, but they are separated by a staircase. Photo illustration by Kyle Curtis

Kyle Curtis

International offshore workers are finding quarantine regulations challenging, to say the least.

Upon their entry back into Canada, they must follow the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 quarantine guidelines. They must self-isolate in a secluded area of their household or accommodations provided by their employer. International offshore workers follow federal guidelines unlike rotational workers who follow provincial guidelines. 

As a result, these workers are secluded from their families and can only contact them by phone or from six-feet away and outside of their quarantine area.

International workers are not required to get tested for the virus until they are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.

Offshore workers are finding this extremely difficult because they are already away from their family and friends for four weeks or more. 

“It plays with your mind when you can’t go see those people and be with them.”

Tom Martin, a deckhand on Secunda Canada’s Siem Diamond supply ship, recently returned from work in Norway. He was quarantined for two weeks in the basement of his house located in Conception Bay South. He says the two-week quarantine wasn’t too bad, but it was not ideal.

“The worst of it is the boredom, not being able to jump in your rig and go for a run or go to [Tim Hortons] for a coffee,” said Martin. “It’s almost like you were in jail or on house arrest.” 

Steven Whittle, a deckhand on the same ship as Martin, also recently returned from work in Norway. He quarantined at his cabin in Guysborough, N.S. Whittle says being isolated took a toll on his mental health.

“Not being able to be around people or see people is definitely hard,” said Whittle. “It’s nice to be able to at least see neighbours and stuff when you’re home, but for two weeks that’s it your on your own,” said Whittle.

“Two weeks at home, now you are completely by yourself. It’s not easy. I think I’d rather be on the boat for a month.”

Doing things around the house and in the garage says Martin, helped him get through quarantine.

“I did the chores that I had to get done around the house,” said Martin. “I got my boat covered up and I was out in the garage picking and cramming getting it cleaned up. Just trying to do something to keep busy.”

For Whittle, it was hunting, doing things outdoors and going for rides on his ATV that helped him get through quarantine.

Steven Whittle got his deer at his cabin in Guysborough, Nova . Hunting is one of the many things he did to get through the COVID-19 quarantine. Photo supplied by Steven Whittle.

When Whittle arrived in Halifax, his family had left his truck at the airport all loaded up the supplies he needed to get through the two weeks of isolation.

“It plays with your mind when you can’t go see those people and be with them,” said Whittle

Martin says the worst part of his quarantine was not being able to see his grandson and granddaughter. He hadn’t seen them in six weeks.

Online video chatting helped Whittle stay connected with his family and friends. He says it’s hard to come home from a four-week trip offshore and have to be by yourself for two more weeks.

“When you get off the ship you’ve been isolated, but you’re with 12 people,” said Whittle about the four-week stint. “When we are on the ship we are a small family onboard. I get to see and interact with people every day. Two weeks at home, now you are completely by yourself. It’s not easy, I think I’d rather be on the boat for a month.”

Both Whittle and Martin are now done their quarantine and can enjoy the rest of their time off until they have to go back to work in the new year.

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