EOHU says coronavirus quarantine at NAV Centre ‘not a risk’ to public; MP condemns lack of gov’t communication

CORNWALL — Cornwall’s NAV Centre is equipped with “isolated” quarantine facilities — complete with a self-contained ventilation system — and using the site to hold people potentially exposed to the coronavirus poses no risk to guests or visitors at the federal facility, according to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

The federal government prompted local concern Saturday when it announced the NAV Centre will take in Canadians currently stranded aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan. Over 350 passengers on the ship have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Canadians showing no symptoms will be flown back to this country — and ultimately transported to Cornwall for a two-week “precautionary quarantine,” in the words of the EOHU, whose officials inspected the quarantine set-up today.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, EOHU Medical Officer of Health, says his organization is “satisfied that the infection control precautions and quarantine procedures will meet the needs of the quarantined individuals while also keeping the public safe.”

The quarantine facilities are separated from the public areas of the Centre by an indoor bridge and underground tunnel that are closed to the public. “A medical clinic will be installed on the site to provide health and social services,” adds the local medical authority in a press release issued today, following a press conference with local media.

“Guests or visitors to the main NAV Centre campus will not be affected by the quarantine,” insists the EOHU, “and are not at risk as there will be no access to the quarantine site or individuals.”

Dr. Roumeliotis acknowledges local worries about introducing the virus into the community as “understandable” but assures “measures are in place to protect the health and safety of Cornwall and area residents and Canadians who are returning.”

The doctor adds that all of the quarantined Canadians in Japan will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before boarding the plane, and those with fever or respiratory symptoms will have to stay in Japan for medical care. Upon arrival at CFB Trenton, the passengers will be screened again, he says, again to ensure they have no symptoms before being sent to Cornwall.

While the risk of the quarantined individuals becoming ill “low” — given their prolonged quarantine and
repeated health screenings — the EOHU says it’s working with local EMS, hospitals and other partners to plan for safe transportation and medical care in the event a patient requires hospitalization. “We are well-prepared to handle any medical needs in a safe manner,” says the doctor.

The words of assurance and release of information late this afternoon took too long to arrive for local MP Eric Duncan, who expressed disappointment with the federal government’s lack of communication since Saturday’s surprise announcement.

“I am very disappointed in the federal government for the lack of proactive communication that the NAV Centre in Cornwall will serve as a COVID-19 quarantine site,” declares Duncan in a statement, describing the situation as an “absolute failure from a communication and public relations perspective. Frankly, the residents of the City of Cornwall deserve much better from their federal government.”

Duncan complains that he was not invited to participate in several meetings, briefings and calls occurring yesterday on the matter, adding he was only contacted by email last night and was “finally” brought into the loop at noon today. “I was finally briefed in my Ottawa office by public health officials and staff from the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

“I was able to question the reasoning of selecting the NAV Centre for a quarantine zone over other options and express my frustration and disappointment of the communication with myself, city administration and council, and the general public. They provided their reasoning for the selection of the NAV Centre and the safety protocols they will follow in the coming weeks. I encouraged them to share this information publicly immediately.”

Adds Duncan: “I was able to echo the same type of questions and feedback Mayor Clement has heard from the community.”

The MP reiterates it was “unacceptable” for himself and city officials to not be advised or briefed before the announcement and “unnecessarily created concerns among many local residents.”


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