Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

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The Irving Shipyard executives, including president Kevin McCoy, travelled to the United States on company business and returned to Canada, but were exempted from the 14-day self-isolation requirement, Irving spokesperson Tom Hormsby confirmed this morning in response to a question from the Halifax Examiner.

The company issued a statement:

“There are occasions throughout the year when senior management must travel internationally for key in-person activities in support of the National Combat Shipbuilding program, which has been designated as an essential service during the current pandemic. Three members of management recently travelled to the United States to engage with key contractors. Before finalizing their travel, they sought and received permission in advance from both public health and safety authorities within the federal and provincial governments, who provided written approvals with instructions regarding the rules for their travel and upon re-entry to Canada. The rules included the mandatory requirement of obtaining a PCR test for Covid-19 on the day of their return and to self-isolate until the results of the tests were confirmed negative. The individuals have all been tested. One is at home in self-isolation waiting for their results, while the other two results came back negative. In addition, to limit potential exposure, the individuals travelled by private aircraft and did not fly commercially. They also went straight from the airport directly to their homes to self-isolate. Like all employees, upon their eventual return to the shipyard, they will still be required to have daily temperature screenings and to declare daily if there any changes in their health. As an extra precaution due physical distancing and the limited number of people allowed to participate in the upcoming final Sea Trials for the future HMCS Harry DeWolf none of these individuals will participate in the Sea Trials.”

Public Health Ontario notes that “given an incubation period of up to 14 days for COVID-19 disease after exposure, a negative PCR test result in an asymptomatic person should not be used to rule out disease.”

This morning, I asked the Department of Health about the exemption, and while I waited for a response, I started tweeting about what I had learned. The reaction was overwhelming: people were angry that the exemption was granted to highly connected Irving execs, an exemption that would probably not be given to the average person.

This afternoon, I finally got a response to my request for comment from the Department of Health. It came as an announcement from Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health:

There have been a number of questions and concerns about an exception granted by Public Health to Irving Shipbuilding for travel to the U.S. I did give an exception in June with very tight restrictions, but now after concerns have been raised, I have revoked that exception and made clear there will be no further company travel to or from the U. S. I have also ordered the individuals be sent home to isolate for 14 days and asked for assurances that COVID testing has been completed.

Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil have announced a COVID-19 briefing for tomorrow at noon. I’ll be on the call.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Two Tier Pandemic to match Canada’s Two Tier Healthcare system. Those Irving execs no doubt know how to get special consideration in the healthcare system along with all the other Influencers in Canada.

    As far as airports, what about private flights? For instance to “Fox Harbour Airport (TC LID: CFH4) is a privately owned airport located 1.5 nautical miles (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) north of Fox Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada on the shore of Northumberland Strait.. It was built as part of the Fox Harb’r Resort, owned by Ron Joyce.” Wikipedia. Or those exclusive golf resorts in Cape Breton?

    What about air freight flights into Halifax? Are those crews monitored?

    And why not user pay for all this? If you want to fly, let the passengers or airlines pay for all the necessary monitoring. This should not be a financial burden to NS.

    Hopefully, whistleblowers on both the Two Tier Pandemic and the queue-jumping and influence peddling in the regular healthcare system will come forth with information.

  2. Well done, Tim. I bet if you tweeted about this earlier exchange you had with Strang he’d soon be forced to backpedal again, namely the one where he mentioned ‘the “thousands” of travellers coming from the US’ and that ‘the epidemiology shows little increased risk to other people on an airplane when flying with someone who has COVID-19’. The idea that being in small confined space with poor air circulation, sharing bathroom facilities and/or sitting elbow to elbow with someone with Covid-19 for multiple hours poses “little increased risk” is insane, especially when compared with the risk of getting the virus on a plane without any infected people (which is zero). These guys seem to be making it up on the fly.

    1. Cruise ships have great air circulation and that is why they are breeding grounds for rapid transmission of COVID-19.

      1. In any case, enforced physical proximity in a small enclosed space over many hours along with shared facilities is surely an environment favouring virus transmission. I would be curious to see the studies that conclude that such conditions present “little increased risk” as Strang claims.