New Brunswick’s official Opposition believes the public needs to know more about how the government plans to combat COVID-19 in the opening weeks of the new year.
Liberal Leader Roger Melanson told reporters Monday in a virtual scrum that case counts and hospitalizations continue to rise.
If hospitalizations reach 100, that’s expected to trigger Level 3 of the province’s Winter Plan, which Melanson said is “essentially” a lockdown.
Melanson called on Premier Blaine Higgs to provide an outlook into the immediate future.
“What, actually, is the situation right now?” Melanson asked.
“What do they foresee in the next eight weeks of what we’ll be facing? And are we equipped, in our health-care system, to be able to deal with those situations?”
The Liberals say the daily-reported case numbers are now flawed since the province has not included results from rapid tests, which are the primary source of testing for most residents under age 50.
Liberal health critic J.C. D’Amours took to Twitter on Saturday, calling for a change in policy.
“For the sake of transparency, GNB must disclose the number of positive cases following a rapid test on its Dashboard,” D’Amours wrote.
Fredericton data analyst Ray Harris said having only results from lab-confirmed PCR tests makes it difficult to track where the province is headed.
“It completely bungles the numbers for a couple of reasons,” Harris said. “One, of course, is we don’t have a great idea of the full positivity rate of the province or of the individual zones.”
Global News contacted the premier’s office for an interview, but did not receive a response.
But Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the reported positives from rapid tests will be added to the dashboard “as soon as possible.”
She criticized Melanson, saying he would have the information he is seeking if he hadn’t left the government’s all-party COVID-19 cabinet committee in early November.
“It’s not going to be a smooth path,” Shephard admitted. “The next six to eight weeks will be challenging, but we will ensure that the public knows the circumstances that lead to any kind of shift, and why and when it has to be done.”
Shephard said her department, public health, the regional health authorities and others are working together to avoid a health care human resources issue as more and more workers are forced to isolate due to infection or exposure.
Other provinces, including Nova Scotia and Quebec, have requested help from the federal government. Shephard said there are no plans in New Brunswick to make a similar request at this time.