Nova Scotia’s top doctor issued a stern warning to some residents of the province who have lied to public health officials attempting to trace the path of COVID-19.
At a briefing on Friday, Dr. Robert Strang said he’d recently been informed that a small number of Nova Scotians had attempted to deceive or lie to contact tracers.
He called the development “concerning.”
“They have not been truthful and honest about their movements and people they have been in contact with and this lack of information has delayed investigations and is leaving more time for the virus to spread in communities,” Strang said.
“I have to say, I’m very disappointed by this news.”
Strang admitted that the issue was not widespread but said it was important for people to understand how it undercuts the province’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The news came as Strang, joined by Premier Stephen McNeil, said the province appears to have made it through the holiday period “OK.”
Other provinces in Canada are reporting large daily increases in COVID-19 cases, Strang said, while Nova Scotia has only reported 65 cases since Jan. 1.
The neighbouring province of New Brunswick, for example, has reported 285 cases in the same time period.
“Giving (contact tracers) accurate full information is critically important to minimize the chance for any community spread,” Strang said.
“So I would ask any Nova Scotians who think that public health measures don’t apply to them to think again and to stop and think about the rest of the province, the rest of Nova Scotia, and the sacrifices that so many of us have made, and then ask those individuals to say we need to do better.”
It was a sentiment echoed by McNeil.
“Dr. Strang and his team at public health have been doing a tremendous job and the only thing they care about is the virus,” said McNeil.
“So please be forthright and honest with them when they ask you questions.”
Officials explained that contact tracing needs to be carried out quickly but that it can only be done after the fact and once someone has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of the coronavirus.
Lying or misleading contact tracers allows COVID-19 to move through the community.
McNeil stressed that the information provided to public health stays between the individual and public health.
“We’re not looking at any way to judge your movement or decisions that you’ve made,” he said.
“The only goal is to capture and wrap our arms around this virus as quickly as we can so it doesn’t spread within the community. It really is about the health and safety of Nova Scotians.”
Strang issued a final reminder that individuals who lie or mislead health officials can be charged or fined under Nova Scotia’s Public Health Act.
“We know that we have legal tools that we can bring to bear if it’s appropriate and necessary,” he said.