The lawyer for a doctor accused of setting off a COVID-19 outbreak in the New Brunswick town of Campbellton last year says his client is no longer facing charges.
Dr. Jean Robert Ngola was charged with a provincial offence under the provincial Emergency Measures Act in May 2020.
The charge was under Section 24 (b) and is for instances in which an accused “violates or fails to comply with a direction, order or requirement made under this Act or the regulations.”
On Friday, his lawyer, Joel Etienne, said that charge has been dropped at the request of the Crown.
The outbreak in question allegedly began at the Campbellton Regional Hospital in the spring of 2020, where Vitalité Health confirmed that a doctor worked and failed to self-isolate after a trip to Quebec.
Ngola, a physician of Congolese descent, went on to experience “mercilessness, cruelty and was cast away by a Premier, by an employer, by a Government,” Etienne said in a statement last August when the charge was announced.
That included a barrage of racism and hate after his positive COVID-19 status was leaked on social media.
The doctor has since relocated to Quebec.
At a news conference in late May of 2020, Premier Blaine Higgs did not refer to Ngola by name but spoke of an “irresponsible” health worker and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP.
Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge a growing public outrage toward the doctor, telling people to leave the investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person’s employer.
In a release on Friday, Etienne said his client wants an apology from the premier for the previous public statements.
“Although Dr. Ngola was not specifically named, Premier Higgs publicly labelled him, as an irresponsible health-care worker who failed to self-isolate. The Premier has repeatedly refused to publicly apologize, maintaining his position,” the statement said.
Higgs responded Friday by saying he “doesn’t feel he has anything to apologize for,” pointing out that he didn’t name Ngola.
“It’s unfortunate if he took it personally,” Higgs said. “But I didn’t name him, that came out later.”
–With files from Silas Brown, Karla Renic, The Canadian Press