Cariboo-Prince George MP Doherty shares COVID-19 concerns

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty is doing what he can to ensure the safety of the riding he represents.

For the most part, he's hunkering down with his family in their College Heights home.

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That's what he wants all Canadians do to keep the coronavirus from infecting more people.

"We're in crazy times right now and I'd be lying to you if said I wasn't worried," said Doherty, who was not among the 32 MPs in Ottawa debating a bill Tuesday that would deliver $82 billion in financial aid and tax deferrals to individuals and businesses to help them cope with the economic effects of COVID-19. 

"I'm really worried about the health side of it," he said. "There's so much we don't know. It would appear that Wuhan, China (where COVID-19 originated) has gone back to its daily life, but there's so much we don't know and I worry about our ability to respond."

India announced Tuesday it has put the country's entire population of 1.3 billion on a total lockdown for the next 21 days after cases spiked over the past few days.

Doherty, a Conservative MP, returned from Ottawa when Parliament was suspended March 13 and aside from venturing out a few times to pick up a few groceries he's been anchored to his home.

"The only way we can combat this is by limiting the spread of it," he said. "You hear more and more of people who are completely healthy one day and the next day they can hardly breathe.

"This doesn't discriminate, we're seeing cases globally where it's infecting young people too. It gets into the respiratory system and it's very hard to combat. I just think we should be doing what can individually with self-isolation and taking those precautions to manage it that way."

As of Tuesday there were 2,100 cases of COVID-19 reported in Canada (nine in northern B.C) and 25 deaths in the country, 13 of which were in B.C. 

On Monday, B.C. doctors expressed fears that the province could be on the same COVID-19 trajectory as Italy, which on Tuesday reported 743 deaths in a one-day period. That brought the death toll for Italy to 6,820, of the 17,100 who have died worldwide.

"I think we're finding out too late, people across the country are passing away before they are being diagnosed," Doherty said. "I think we have to do a better job of that and I'm hearing that from other parliamentarians as well from all sides. We have to be doing whatever we can as a country to be providing the resources to our doctors and health authorities so they can provide the tests and keep themselves safe." 

Doherty said MPs are considering the possibility of retrofitting Canadian factories to produce hospital equipment such as ventilators and masks if traditional sources for those items are cut off due to rising demand.

Despite media requests, Northern Health has been very guarded in releasing information to the public about preparations for a possible cluster of infections on a massive scale like that which overwhelmed health systems in Italy, Spain and China. Doherty said he can understand why hospital authorities have been tightlipped.

"Communication is the key and going back to the 2017 wildfires I think the best way you can mitigate any fears is by communicating as much as you can," he said. 

"But I also understand confidentiality is key and you don't want to start an unnecessary panic. If we are being measured in our approach and communicating at all three levels (of government) as best we can then that is the best way to get through a crisis together."


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