P.E.I. health minister did not self-isolate right away after international travel

P.E.I. Health Minister James Aylward did not self-isolate right away after returning to P.E.I. from a health recruitment trip to Ireland says P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.

King said Aylward got back from Ireland in the early hours of March 13, went home to get some sleep, then went into his office later that same morning.

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison talked to Aylward once he got to the office and told him to go home because she planned to issue a directive later that day on the need for all those arriving in P.E.I. from outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days, King said.

At a news briefing at noon on March 13 Morrison announced people returning to the province should self-isolate following international travel.

Ken Linton/CBC

King said there was some confusion at the time about what was required for self-isolation. 

"When the minister had arrived back the directive from the chief public health officer at the time was to monitor your symptoms, or if you didn't have any, for 14 days and that is what he had begun to do," King said.

King said after Aylward was given the recommendation to self-isolate he headed for home.

However, Aylward made two stops along the way including the grocery store.

"He did make a couple of stops along the way which I think if we look at that day through the lens of today I think we all realize that's something that he shouldn't have done. I think he wished he hadn't done it," King said.

King said he expressed his disappointment to Aylward about the decision to make stops on his way home.

"Obviously there was a lapse in judgment by the minister and something he regrets deeply and, you know, I was disappointed and I told him that," King said.

"Dr. Morrison from the 13th on talked extensively about how we shouldn't do that and we need to go home and self-isolate."

King said he heard early on about Alyward making stops on his way home.

"I spoke to the minister. He told me that he did make two stops for supplies and that he regretted doing it, but following that, his return home, he was self-isolating and adhering to the directive of the chief public health officer," King said.

King said Aylward told him he stopped because he had been in Ireland for about seven days and he needed groceries.

"When you're in leadership roles like we are as politicians on Prince Edward Island, people are right to hold to a higher standard and on this particular case I think he missed the mark," King said.

No discipline?

However, King said discipline is not being considered.

"In this particular case there is some gray area around what people were supposed to do as the directives were changing." 

King said "this lapse of judgment aside" Aylward has been doing a "good job" and has been working around the clock.

Aylward has had a low profile since returning to the province, but King said although his public profile hasn't been as big as health ministers in other provinces, Aylward is on the job every day.

"By order of the health act Dr. Morrison takes the lead in these situations," he said.

King said Aylward may be available for comment about the situation at a future date.

"I think he has just been focused on trying to get the work done that we need to get done," King said.

CBC asked Aylward for comment but had not heard back from him at the time this story was published.

COVID-19: What you need to know

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Common symptoms include:

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Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

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