MP calls for more transparency about B.C. Interior coronavirus cases

After hearing from his constituents, a member of parliament from B.C.’s Interior is calling on health officials to be more transparent about coronavirus cases in the region.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said he would like health officials to either release information about what community or communities the cases are in or explain why information is being provided about the location of some cases elsewhere in the province but not the Interior Health region.

The province’s Health Ministry argues protecting patients’ privacy will help those experiencing symptoms feel safe coming forward.

On Saturday, provincial health officials announced a second presumptive case of coronavirus in the Interior Health region.

The province’s top health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the latest presumptive case in Interior Health was related to international travel, “to a number of places in Europe, most recently from Portugal.”

The Interior’s first presumptive case was announced on Feb. 14. Provincial officials said the woman travelled from Shanghai, China, to Vancouver, and then by private vehicle to the Interior.

At the time, the woman was said to be in self-isolation at home.

No information was released as to where in the health region either case is located.

Meanwhile, Albas pointed out that officials have named a specific North Vancouver care centre as being at the centre of a cluster of cases.

“They don’t need to know the individual, they don’t even need to know exactly where someone is self-isolated, other than, please just let us know the community.”

Albas argues releasing the community location of cases would stem informal chatter that may create fear and allow people to make informed decisions.

“In the absence of information, people then start to speculate or, worse than that, you have an informal network where rumours start to abound and that raises fears,” Albas said.

“The second part, though, is for people to make informed choices about where they go and at what level do they participate.”

“This is why privacy is important to everyone. It allows public health providers to do the work they need to do to keep everybody safe.”

The province added that “anyone who may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19 gets contacted by the public health officials who are supporting confirmed cases and their close contacts.”

– with files from Doyle Potenteau

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