COVID-19 video featuring Nova Scotia premier, Strang roasted on social media | #socialmedia

A video from the Nova Scotia government on COVID-19 is getting a big thumbs-down from many commentators on social media. 

“Is this a briefing?” said NDP MLA Claudia Chender in a Twitter comment on the video featuring Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health.

The government has been hammered by the opposition and other observers for its infrequent briefings and the move from detailed daily reports to pared down weekly releases on COVID-19 activity. 

In the video that runs just over two minutes, Houston repeats the talking points that have emerged during his responses during question period in the legislature and in scrums with reporters. 

“Let’s be clear, COVID-19 is present and all around,” he says. “It’s stubborn. It’s not going anywhere and given how contagious this current strain of the virus is, we are going to see cases arise. They’re high now and could go higher over the next little while but eventually we’ll start to see them come down.”

Houston: Mandates not needed

Houston said we must take COVID-19 seriously but some have pointed out contradictory messages in government promotions that encourage people to “get out there” to restaurants and other activities. 

The government has been criticized for lifting COVID-19 restrictions at a time of high death rates and case counts. People can go maskless indoors except for high-risk settings such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. 

The Houston government has emphasized the importance of individual responsibility when it comes to protecting themselves and others against the virus, which has been linked to the deaths of 255 Nova Scotians, including 142 since the Omicron wave began in early December. 

At the legislature Tuesday, Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said the mask mandate should be reinstated until at least the end of April. 

“We don’t need mandates to keep your family safe, we know you know how,” Houston said in the video. 

Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender called the premier’s decision to release a COVID-19 video on social media “cynical and insufficient.” – Ryan Taplin / File

‘Cynical’ move

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Chender said it’s not possible as a legislator right now to form opinions about such things as whether mask mandates should be reinstated. 

“I don’t have the data and up until recently we could base our decisions on information,” she said. “And we don’t have that information anymore and that’s incredibly frustrating.”

Chender said it appears the premier’s office produced the video in reaction to criticism over the government’s COVID-19 decisions. 

“I think it was cynical and I think it was insufficient.”

Other provinces such as Prince Edward Island and Quebec have said they’ll keep their general indoor mask mandate until the end of April. On Tuesday in the legislature, Houston said the government isn’t considering reinstating its mask mandate. 

In the video, Strang said the Omicron variant is generally mild but can be more severe for older people and those with underlying health conditions. He reiterated his advice that people wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces and large crowds and keep your social circles small. 

He also continued to urge people to get vaccinated. 

The use of Twitter as a medium of communication irked many on the platform.

“This is reprehensible, atta way to hide from real questions,” one said. 

“You need to put the masks mandates back in until the WHO tells us covid is not a health hazard,” another said. “Your information video is not the way to go. You sound like you are down playing the virus which is why the numbers are spiking.”

Many people said they were worried at the lack of masking they’ve seen in crowded spaces. 

“98% of the folks crowded into the indoor hockey rink where I was last night were NOT wearing masks so, no, @TimHoustonNS  people don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing to protect their community.”

Others questioned why the legislature is moving to a hybrid model – with some MLAs showing up in person and others allowed to attend virtually – when gathering limits have been removed for the general public and settings such as schools are completely in-person. 

While most of the comments on the Nova Scotia government tweet with the video were negative – even the cheery background music came under fire – a few lauded the government’s hands-off approach. 

“Well said @TimHoustonNS  @StrangRobert. We no longer need restrictions just public health guidelines and some common sense.”

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