Yesterday, the Province announced its isolation requirement for COVID-19 is ending on June 30th, and it will be reviewed next week. I am extremely concerned by this development, especially the timing.
Under the current public health rules, Islanders must self-isolate if they test positive for COVID-19. At its core, the isolation requirement exists to protect the health and wellbeing of Islanders. It was a key part of keeping COVID case numbers low in the early days of the pandemic.
Though the Premier might be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 is not done with us. New COVID-19 cases on PEI have increased in each of the past three reporting periods. Hospitalizations are also trending upward again.
COVID-related illness hurts our healthcare system and our economy. It places additional burdens on our hospitals in the short-term and additional burdens with long-COVID in the future, at a time when our healthcare workers are already burnt out from more than two years of COVID.
Over the past two years, the Dennis King government was responsible for ensuring that all Islanders had the support they needed to isolate when sick and protect others from COVID-19. Premiere King failed to do so. Many Island workers do not have access to paid sick leave or flexible childcare. Ventilation in Island schools, long-term care, and other facilities has not been significantly upgraded.
The conscious choice to remove the public protection from the self-isolation requirement would increase the risk of illness and severe outcomes like hospitalizations and deaths. Simply put, these are not outcomes I want for Islanders.
Removing this vital public health protection severely impairs Islanders' ability to make informed risk assessments. We are all feeling tired of COVID. However, if we are not careful, we will continue to face disruptions in our lives.
Islanders have to navigate the haphazard masking and social distancing in the community. Removing further protections unfairly shifts the risk burden to the most vulnerable. It deprives them of the ability to participate fully in society through no fault of their own.
Public health by press release is not acceptable. Major public health decisions by Premier Dennis King and his cabinet, on the recommendation of Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Morrison, should be announced in media briefings where the findings can be justified, and the media has an opportunity to ask questions.
I am calling on the Premier to do precisely that.
Michele Beaton, MLA Mermaid-Stratford
Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness