An Ontario doctor facing non-criminal allegations that she misled health officials about her contacts after she caught COVID-19 last Christmas has had all counts against her dropped, as her husband pleaded guilty.
Martina Weir, who worked at nursing homes and hospitals in Durham Region, east of Toronto, and her husband Brian Weir were the first known cases in Canada of the alpha variant of COVID-19, also known as B117 and which was first detected in the U.K.
When the cases were announced last December, provincial health officials said it was a fluke that the variant was detected in the couple, and that the Weirs had withheld information about contact with a traveller from the U.K. CBC News later learned that a close family member who lives in Britain flew to Canada in mid-December to spend time at the Weirs’ home over the holidays.
Brian Weir pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in Durham Region provincial court to a single non-criminal count of failing to provide accurate information on all people he may have had contact with during his period of infectiousness for COVID-19.
The agreed statement of facts read to the court simply stated: “During a phone call with a public health nurse on Dec. 21, 2020, the defendant was asked to disclose who lived in their house and who visited their home during their period of communicability, and the information provided was not accurate.”
Brian Weir’s lawyer and the prosecutor jointly suggested a $5,000 fine for the single count — the maximum possible under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Prosecutor Thomas McKinnon told court that the guilty plea was part of a resolution of all the charges against both Weirs, and that two other counts against Brian Weir and all three charges against Martina Weir would be dropped.
Brian Weir’s lawyer called his client’s conduct a “minor transgression” but the justice of the peace hearing the case rejected that.
“These matters have some serious ramifications for the public at large,” Justice of the Peace Allison Forestall said in accepting his guilty plea and the sentencing recommendation.
“The legislation is in place to not necessarily just protect you, sir, but to protect other members of the community — particularly those that might unwittingly be involved with you or in contact with you and not knowing any of the risks associated with it.”
After the hearing, lawyers for the Weirs said neither they nor their clients wanted to comment.
Physician gone from nursing homes
The couple had been facing three counts each:
Two counts of “failing to provide accurate information on all persons that [they] may have had contact with during their period of communicability for COVID-19.”
One count each of obstruction for “providing false information” to public health officials.
In January, in the wake of the charges against the Weirs, Durham Region told CBC that Martina Weir was no longer an attending physician at the two publicly run long-term care homes where she had been employed.
The region did not immediately say Wednesday whether Weir is back working at the homes or if she plans to return.
Toronto Paramedic Services, where Brian Weir works as a senior scheduler for the city’s emergency medical service, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.