New Brunswick outbreak: How a smalltown doctor became a Covid pariah

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New Brunswick outbreak: How a smalltown doctor became a Covid pariah


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After being labelled the "patient-zero" of an outbreak of Covid, a Congolese-Canadian physician says he became a target for racist
threats, a pariah in his community, and a "scapegoat" for local officials.

When Dr Jean-Robert Ngola heard that he had to pick up his daughter last May, he quickly did the maths.

His daughter lived in Montreal with her mother, about seven hours away from his home in Campbellton, New Brunswick.

As a family physician, he knew that he needed to be as safe as possible to limit the spread of Covid to others. But as a parent,
he had to come get his child so that her mother could attend a family funeral in Africa.

In order to get her and have contact with has few people as possible, he hopped in his car and drove all day, spending the night
at his brother's before driving her back.

Before leaving, Dr Ngola called the local police, asking for clarity around the laws about self-isolation.

New Brunswick has one of the strictest quarantine policies in the country. Along with several other eastern provinces,
it has formed an "Atlantic bubble" - in the early months of the pandemic, most forms of travel into the bubble were restricted,
and anyone entering had to quarantine for 14 days.

But as a frontline worker, he says police told him he was exempt.

Not wanting to leave his patients without a doctor, he decided to go back to work.

On 25 May, Dr Ngola heard that one of his patients had been diagnosed with the virus. He got tested, and began to self-isolate
with his four-year-old daughter.

At 11am on 27 May, he learned he, too, had the virus, although he had no symptoms.

Then, his life began to fall apart. Within the hour, his identity began to spread online. Later in the afternoon, Premier Blaine
Higgs, who leads the provincial government, was chastising him on live television.

At least two other people had contracted coronavirus "due to the actions of one irresponsible individual," Mr Higgs said,
after nearly two weeks without a single case.

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