NDP members are now calling for the MLA Drew Barnes to be removed from the UCP caucus after he questioned the reliability of COVID-19 tests and masks during a live interview with an independent media outlet on Thursday.
“It’s completely unacceptable for an elected official to be spreading conspiracy theories like this,” said NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman on Friday.
“Drew Barnes is undermining our response to the pandemic that has caused incredible hardship for Alberta families and businesses and that is lead to the death of over 1,600 Albertans,” Hoffman added.
In a clip of the interview posted by NDP Leader Rachel Notley on Twitter, the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat can be heard saying, “Of course, we’re hearing here that our tests may be 50 per cent ineffective.” Barnes went on to say the effectiveness of masks is debatable.
“This kind of misinformation being spread by MLA Barnes puts the lives of Albertans at risk, it cannot be tolerated,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.
“For the record, PCR tests are highly accurate and approach 100 per cent depending on the progress of the virus,” Shepherd said.
Just before the NDP news conference on Friday afternoon, Barnes took to Twitter in a five-part thread to say he misstated an important point.
He started off by saying, “Front line health care professionals have done a tremendous job responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping our people safe.”
The thread goes on to say, “PCR testing is effective, but according to Public Health Canada, a high number of false negatives (source: https://bit.ly/3j6EmbG) can present within the first five days of exposure to the virus.
“I didn’t clearly state that I was referring to testing within the five-day incubation period, and this created confusion, for which I apologize.”
Barnes ends by saying, “I am fully aware that PCR testing is effective. Alberta’s ability to administer more PCR tests per capita than any other province is part of the reason why we’ve been able to bring stabilize our infection rate so significantly.”
Although, Barnes did not address comments he made which questioned the effectiveness of wearing masks.
The NDP, however, believes the apology and clarification are too late; the damage had already been done.
“This is incredibly dangerous right now in the current pandemic we face,” Hoffman stated.
“People need to have confidence when they get a test that when it’s positive, they need to quarantine, for their safety, for the safety of the people they love and the broader community and what he did yesterday is undermining that,” she added.
Global News reached out to Barnes for comment, but as of Friday evening had not heard back.
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