A Durham Region couple, who tested positive for the U.K. variant of COVID-19, have been charged for allegedly failing to disclose they had a contact from Britain visit them.
The husband and wife have been identified as Dr. Martina Weir, a doctor who works in hospitals and long-term care homes in the region, and Brian Weir, a scheduler at Toronto Paramedic Services.
The Weirs are each accused of failing to provide accurate information to health officials about “all persons that the defendant may have had contact with during their period of communicability,” and “providing false information in relation to contact with anyone who travelled from the United Kingdom,” according to court documents reported in the media.
It’s alleged the offences took place on Dec. 25 and 26, the latter being the same day of the provincial shutdown order.
According to the CBC, both said in statements through their respective lawyers that they’re not guilty and intend to “vigorously defend” themselves against the non-criminal charges under Section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act. The charges carry a maximum penalty of $5,000.
On Dec. 26, Ontario Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe announced the first two confirmed cases of the B117 strain first identified in the U.K.
“The cases are a couple from Durham with 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,” Yaffe said in a statement at the time.
It was a fluke the variant was discovered, according to Public Health Ontario, given the province’s labs only look for the B117 strain in certain circumstances, such as when the person being tested has been outside the country or been in touch with someone who has.
Modelling and epidemiological studies suggest the COVID-19 variant can spread easier and faster, but there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe illness, health officials said.
A Dr. Martina Weir is listed on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario website as working at Lakeridge Health locations in Bowmanville, Oshawa and Whitby.
A spokesperson for the college did not return emailed requests from the Sun inquiring whether Weir reported the charges to the CPSO.
The Weirs are scheduled to appear March 10 in a provincial offences court, according to the CBC.
Both Martina Weir and Brian Weir could not be reached Friday for comment.
Dineen Robinson, the acting superintendent for media and public information at Toronto Paramedic Services, said they don’t provide personal information of staff.
“We can confirm that Mr. Weir does not currently work in a public facing position,” she said.
“We trust that all staff will follow public health guidelines and provincial regulations put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Robinson said. “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.”
Sharon Navarro, a spokesperson for Lakeridge Health where Dr. Weir works, confirmed she “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.”
She said Lakeridge Health has had an active screening process in place since March 2020 that requires all staff, patients and visitors to be screened before entering any Lakeridge Health facility.
“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 country,” Navarro said in a statement. “As this matter is before the courts, we are unable to provide any details.”