Following the leaking of documents from the BC Centre for Disease Control that indicate the provincial NDP government has withheld COVID-19 data from the public, two South Surrey MLAs have added their voices to a chorus of criticism from the BC Liberals.
The documents, which were obtained this week by the Vancouver Sun, contained a detailed breakdown of case counts and vaccinations by neighbourhoods, rather than just by city or health region.
“Why have the NDP’s Surrey MLAs been silent on this issue?” asked Trevor Halford, MLA for Surrey-White Rock, in a news release issued Friday afternoon.
“Government has a responsibility to be honest with people, and now we find they have intentionally left our community here in the dark.”
The leaked reports, the BC Liberals note, show that the COVID-19 positivity rates in parts of Surrey were more than 20 per cent last week.
“Knowing the dire situation here in Surrey, with some neighbourhoods showing the highest positivity rate in the province, the NDP chose to create a system of chaos with vaccine pop-up clinics that were not planned nor able to get vaccines to those who needed them most,” added Stephanie Cadieux, MLA for Surrey South.
In the same release, BC Liberal health critic Renee Merrifield called the holding back of information “a failure of government.”
On Friday afternoon, the provincial government held a press conference by phone with Drs. Bonnie Henry and Réka Gustafson.
Gustafson, of the BC CDC, said the data wasn’t disclosed because it wasn’t “at the standard” the BC CDC considers viable for release to the public.
Workers dedicate their time to collect and distribute data based on what is of interest at the time, Gustafson said.
Henry, meanwhile, said B.C. “doesn’t have systems to support the consistent collection of the same data over time.”
“We have huge gaps still,” she said, noting a lack of collected data on workplace outbreaks and minority and cultural groups in communities of the province.
“Every single day we are looking to making this better,” Gustafson said.
As it stands, health regions are more often able to provide up-to-date data on COVID-19 cases and immunizations than provincial-level officials.
Currently, officials release weekly case counts segmented by Local Health Service areas, which can include groupings of populations of cities the size of Surrey (over 500,000). The internal report doesn’t show data broken down by rural region.
News agencies across the province, including Black Press Media, have asked in the past for more detailed breakdowns of COVID cases, with officials stating concerns of privacy.
There have been 134,000 confirmed cases of the contagious respiratory illness in B.C. since January 2020.
Other regions in the country, such as Toronto and central Alberta, are seeing steady daily case counts reported in neighbourhood data.
– Files from Ashley Wadhwani, Black Press Media