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Premier Andrew Furey says his party will no longer hold indoor fundraisers after this week’s controversy over two Liberal fundraisers while the public has been encouraged to avoid large indoor gatherings.
Health Minister Dr. John Haggie held a $250-per-ticket fundraising event on Wednesday at the Bally Haly Country Club with 23 people in attendance.
On Monday, Premier Furey and Status of Women Minister Lisa Dempster attended a 25-person event at a private residence in St. John’s.
While both events were within public health guidelines, Furey says politicians should be held to a higher standard.
“I want to assure all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that as your leaders, we know that we are held to a higher standard. We will always endeavour to lead by example, even for events that are within the public health guidelines,” said Furey.
“As leaders, we need to not just meet the standards, we need to exceed them and live by example.”
Haggie addressed the controversy during Friday’s COVID-19 update.
“It’s very clear that that decision was unwise. My concern now is really that public confidence in the public health measures and guidelines advanced by the chief medical officer of health may have been in some way shaken or weakened. That cannot be justified,” said Haggie.
“There are lessons that I have learnt from this and I’ve taken those to heart. I want to use this opportunity to repeat that apology.”
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says she doesn’t want to dwell on the fundraisers.
“I think, once again, we’ve been fairly clear in what we expect. I think people have apologized. I think we have to move on,” she said.
Fitzgerald clarified the rules for gatherings over the holiday season.
“The 20 for 2020 refers to maintaining 20 consistent, close contacts over the holiday season. You would not have interactions with a lot of people outside of those close 20 contacts you would have on a regular basis, your close family, close friends,” said Fitzgerald.
“What we’re recommending is people should try to limit any gathering that they would have to less than 20 people, provided the space could accommodate 20 people. Right now, in our special measures orders, for informal gatherings we have a limit of 50. We have been looking at this and we will be reconsidering that number in the near future.”
Vaccine team assembled
A vaccine logistics team has been assembled by the province to ensure the rapid delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the population of the province.
Haggie, Fitzgerald, Dempster, Municipalities Minister Derek Bennett and Cmdr. David Botting of the Canadian Armed Forces will lead the team to ensure the quick distribution of the vaccine.
As to whether the vaccine will become an annual appointment, similar to the flu vaccine, Fitzgerald says it’s impossible to know before the vaccine has been administered.
“We don’t know what the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine will be,” said Fitzgerald.
“It’s just not been enough time.”