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One of my neighbours has COVID-19. Do B.C. privacy laws protect their identity?

Last Updated Jun 15, 2020 at 8:58 am PDT

FILE: Condos and apartment buildings are seen in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

You don't have the right to know about your neighbour's health status, B.C.'s information and privacy commissioner says

If you need to know about potential COVID-19 exposure, health officials will let you know

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Questions:

“Someone on Facebook had posted that an employee in a business within [a Metro Vancouver] mall was positive with COVID-19. Not sure what business. Shouldn’t this information become public so everyone knows what store was affected?”

Theresa: “We just received notice that someone in our condo building has been hospitalized with COVID-19. Strata states privacy laws won’t let them reveal anything about who it is, not even what floor they are on. Is this correct?”

Answer:

The general public does not have a right to know identifying information about people who have tested positive for COVID-19, B.C.’s information and privacy commissioner, Michael McEvoy, told NEWS 1130.

“People who are suffering with COVID have enough to worry about in terms of their recovery … [they don’t need to be] a neon sign above their place of residence letting the whole block or the whole neighbourhood know what’s going on,” he said.

It’s up to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to decide, through contact tracing, who is informed of potential exposure to the coronavirus, McEvoy said.

“It is not up to an apartment block manager or anybody else to be disclosing or discussing that issue,” he added.

If COVID-19 patients were widely identified without their consent, McEvoy said, it could discourage others from seeking help.

“If you feel you are sick, or you feel you are in need of a test, we want people to feel that they can go and get those tests in the privacy of the doctor’s office or [they can consult] with their physician to make sure they are properly diagnosed, properly treated, and properly quarantined,” he said.

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