You should still be able to feel the love this Valentine’s Day, but break self-quarantine orders and you could be feeling the long arm of the law instead.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald outlined Wednesday how health authorities keep tabs on people who have to be self-isolating due to travel or exposure to COVID-19.
“Generally speaking, we’ve had good compliance with self-isolation requirements and adherence to public health guidance,” Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health said during her weekly update. “It is because of this that we have fared so well. Our good fortune can be upended, however, if we do not remain vigilant.”
Her comments come on the heels of the arrest in Corner Brook of a man who had arrived from Alberta on Friday but failed to self-isolate as required.
- No new reported cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, but there is a case of someone charged with failure to self-isolate
- Atlantic Canadians less likely to get COVID-19 vaccine after vaccines were approved, poll suggests
The man was stopped in a vehicle Sunday and arrested after a short foot chase. He also faces an impaired driving charge.Fitzgerald said her department has stepped up how it follows people who are supposed to be in self-quarantine.
One of those measures has been streamlining the application process for those seeking an exemption to travel here. The application and submission of a quarantine plan are all done online.
But people who are supposed to be in quarantine are also contacted by public health officials.
“If there is no response after several attempts by phone and email, law enforcement will be contacted,” said Fitzgerald.
She warned that phone call recipients might see “unknown caller” instead of a number.
And she said anyone whose contact information changes while they are in quarantine should email [email protected] to inform authorities.
“It is concerning to hear that someone is not adhering to self-isolation protocols, but I feel that, once it was discovered, the system worked,” she said about the Corner Brook case.
“This underscores the importance of everyone following guidance.”
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald said shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will drop dramatically over the next couple of weeks as the company refits its production plant in Belgium.
“We have entered the time period where the Pfizer shipments will be delayed, and as the quantity and duration of the delay is uncertain, regional health authorities are holding Pfizer vaccine to ensure that we have availability to administer second doses.”
The timing of the delay is “unfortunate,” she said.
The company has promised to ramp up shipments by the end of February to make up for the shortfall.
So far, 16,500 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have arrived in the province. More than 10,000 doses have been administered.
Testing for variants
Fitzgerald said Public Health has been sending its COVID-19 results to the national laboratory to test for one of a number of coronavirus variants that have shown up in other parts of the world. At least two have already been detected in Canada, but none so far in this province.
“A variant means the virus has mutated or changed in some way,” she said.
While these variants appear to be more easily transmitted, there’s no evidence that the vaccines aren’t still effective against them.
“COVID-19 variants are transmitted in the same way as the original strain, through droplets, and this means that the public health measures we have been practising all year will protect against COVID variants, just as it protects against other respiratory ailments such as influenza.”
As for Valentine’s Day, Fitzgerald's office will post guidelines soon, but the coronavirus doesn’t transmit well on paper or cardboard, so she said she’s not too concerned.
Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.