A Durham doctor and her husband, a Toronto paramedic, have been charged with failing to disclose information to local public health officials about contact they had with a U.K. visitor in light of the spread of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus present in Britain. The couple, Dr. Martina Weir and Brian Weir, are alleged each to have failed to provide accurate information about “all persons that the defendant may have had contact with during their period of communicability,” as well as “providing false information in relation to contact with anyone who travelled from the United Kingdom,” according to court documents. The non-criminal charges were laid under the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act and relate to a Section 22 order put in place by Robert Kyle, the commissioner and medical officer of health for the Durham Region Health Department. Local public health officials have the power to enact the orders to require businesses or individuals to adhere to certain restrictions in order to curb the pandemic. The public health alleges the offences occurred December 25 and December 26, which is when the Province announced publicly that the first two cases of the variant had been found in a Durham couple. At the time, the Province said the cases had “no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts. Both individuals have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols.” The U.K. variant is about 50 per cent more transmissible than the virus that has been in circulation in Ontario. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, a Dr. Martina Weir works at Lakeridge Health sites in Bowmanville, Oshawa and Whitby. Lakeridge Health wouldn’t comment, stating the matter is before the courts. But a hospital spokesperson said in an email “we can confirm that the physician did not enter any Lakeridge Health facilities during December and did not work or provide patient care at any Lakeridge Health hospital during the month of December.” The hospital said it follows strict COVID-19 prevention guidelines for physicians, staff and patients and has had an active screening process in place since March last year, as well as prevention communication and education initiatives. “Physicians and staff must attest that they have not travelled outside the province or country or had contact with anyone travelling outside the province or the country,” said the spokesperson. The Star confirmed with a source that Brian Weir works for Toronto Paramedic Services, where he is a scheduler. TPS spokesperson Dineen Robinson said in an email that her organization does not “provide personal information in respect of our staff,” but said “we can confirm that Mr. Weir does not currently work in a public-facing position.” “We trust that all staff will follow public health guidelines and provincial regulations put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Robinson in the email. “In the event that we become aware of any staff member not respecting COVID-19 protocols required in the workplace, we will take appropriate action.” The allegations against the couple were set out in court documents filed by a Durham public health inspector before a justice of the peace in Whitby on January 12. Durham Public Health wouldn’t confirm they were responsible for the charges. The Province said it does not have any direct involvement with laying of charges. “Those are local enforcement matters,” said a ministry of health spokesperson in an email. The Section 22 order charges state that non-compliance can lead to a “fine of not more than $5,000 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.” The Star reached out to the couple last night for comment, but was unable to contact them.
Patty Winsa Toronto Star Reporter and Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star