Screen shot of Surrey mayors March 16 presser on COVID-19 at city hall, with Councillor Mandeep Nagra (far right). (From City of Surrey video)

Surrey councillors under fire for behavior concerning pandemic travel guidelines

The Now-Leader has reached out to Mayor Doug McCallum on both matters, but has not yet received a response

They run with a slate called Safe Surrey Coalition.

But recent events have some questioning two city councillors’ adherence to that concept following reports Councillor Laurie Guerra is in Mexico during this Coronavirus pandemic, and Councillor Mandeep Nagra’s attendance at the mayor’s March 16 press conference concerning the city’s response to the public health crisis, 10 days after he returned from a trip to India.

The Now-Leader has reached out to Mayor Doug McCallum on both matters, but has not yet received a response.

On March 13, McCallum held a press conference at city hall to discuss the city’s response to COVID-19, in which he stated, “By taking personal responsibility, you are not only protecting yourself, you are protecting your family, loved ones, friends, and ultimately your community.”

“We have also instituted a ban on all work-related international travel for staff,” he said at that presser.

The Now-Leader has yet to establish why Guerra is in Mexico, when she left and when she’s scheduled to return. Phone calls to her have not been returned. The next council meeting is set for April 6.

On March 12, provincial health officials issued a recommendation for British Columbians not to travel outside Canada and, for those that do, to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

READ ALSO: B.C. recommends no travel outside Canada in coronavirus pandemic

McCallum also held a presser on Monday, March 16 at city hall concerning COVID-19 with a few city councillors at his side, Nagra among them. Nagra had returned from a trip to India on March 6.

Nagra told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that after he returned he isolated himself “for almost a week, but there was no guidelines for isolation, they came in on the 12th. If the guidelines had came on the 6th, I would have stayed home, but I was at the next council meeting.”

That meeting was on March 9, three days after he got back. “So there were no guidelines or instructions to stay home 14 days after your arrival.”

After he became aware of the guidelines, he said, “I stayed home most of the time. I did not attend any gatherings. I was invited to a number of events, but I cancelled everything.”

He said he cancelled on a Sikh temple event on Wednesday morning.

Asked why he attended the mayor’s COVID-19 presser on Monday, Nagra replied, “I checked for any symptoms, I’m feeling totally fine and healthy. There’s absolutely no symptoms at all.”

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor appeals to people’s ‘basic humanity’ to stop stockpiling, re-selling

READ ALSO: Surrey councillor under fire for naturopathic COVID-19 offers

“I am taking all the precautions and I am watching for any symptoms as the arise,” Nagra said. “But I’m totally healthy and there are no symptoms at all, and that’s the reason I was there. I think we should all be self-isolating right now, right.

“We don’t know where people are catching it from, we don’t have the exact source, right, we might be catching the same common places like door handles and all that stuff. So we should all be self-isolating at this time, to stop the spread,” he said. “I’m only getting out when I really have to. I have this responsibility where I have to make sure that the safety of our residents is ensured, so that’s the reason I was there at the press conference.”

As for Guerra, he said, “I think she’ll be back by the end of this week.”

Paul Daynes, a strategist for the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, is not impressed.

“Well, I think Surrey, we’ve had to deal with a very nasty virus called the Safe Surrey Coalition,” he said. “They have absolutely no sense whatsoever of social responsibility. Guerra goes to Mexico the day before a travel advisory is given.”

“Society, generally, is trying to make things easier for their citizens,” he said.

Concerning Nagra, Daynes has this to say.

“Every other citizen seems to be getting the message, I mean the media are accused of many things, but not getting the information out there, the do’s and the don’t’s, is not one of them. We’re being inundated with it; there’s no excuse for not knowing what is the right thing to do. Does he need to be told what the right thing to do is? Because 99 per cent of the people I encounter, from the rich, the powerful, the influential down to just ordinary working Joes like myself, we all know what the right thing to do is, but these guys clearly don’t.”

Councillor Brenda Locke, who at press time said she’d been working at home because she was nursing a “stupid cold,” told the Now-Leader “I understand” that Guerra is in Mexico but she doesn’t know exactly where.

“She said she was leaving on Friday, I believe she’s still there. I don’t really know, but,” Locke said. “She left on vacation. I don’t want to comment on anything she’s doing. I guess people made arrangements for spring break, and she probably made the arrangement some time ago.”

“I just know she said she was going to Mexico.”

As for Nagra, Locke noted “this thing is moving pretty fast” and at the time he came back, she thinks, “they didn’t say to him he had to self-monitor or self-isolate. This thing has moved so quickly.”

“Also, when Mandeep went, India wasn’t one with a big red dot on it at that time. It is now, but it wasn’t then.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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