Doctor blamed in Campbellton COVID-19 outbreak pleads not guilty to failing to self-isolate

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Lawyers for a doctor who was alleged to be the source of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Campbellton region last May entered a not guilty plea on his behalf Monday to charges of failing to self-isolate.

Dr. Jean Robert Ngola is charged with violating the Emergency Measures Act by allegedly failing to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling to Quebec.

Christian Michaud and Joël Étienne, lawyers representing Ngola, appeared by phone to enter the not guilty plea. Ngola, who is now based in Louiseville, Que., was not present.

Most of the discussion Monday centred on disclosure of evidence in the case from the Crown to the defence.

Ngola's lawyers say they are still missing important documents from various parties like the RCMP and Vitalité Health Network.

Provincial court Judge Suzanne Bernard scheduled another hearing by phone on Jan. 4 to discuss disclosure of evidence and to determine if a trial date can be set.

Bernard indicated another judge will handle the trial that's expected to last a day, though didn't say why.

Premier Blaine Higgs blamed an "irresponsible" medical professional who travelled to Quebec for personal reasons for the Campbellton outbreak who he said "was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick" and didn't self-isolate.

Higgs didn't name the person, but Ngola was almost immediately identified as the individual and became the subject of threats and racism, his lawyers allege.

Ngola disputes he is 'patient zero' and contact tracing casts doubt on whether he was the source.