Legal implications of knowingly spreading COVID-19
Published Tuesday, September 22, 2020 9:24PM EDT
KITCHENER -- It's possible to face criminal charges for knowingly spreading COVID-19, even though there is no official legislation.
"I believe somebody could be charged criminally in a case where they recklessly gave COVID to someone else," public safety analyst and former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis said.
Lewis said there would need to be very specific circumstances for someone to be found criminally liable for spreading the disease.
"They would have to know they had it, had to know they were lying about it and done something very reckless," he said.
However, those charges could be very difficult to prove in court.
"If you didn't know you had it, maybe suspected it, got tests results back and went to a party and hugged somebody, is that reckless or it that just dumb or careless?" Lewis said.
"Under the Criminal Code, offences of criminal negligence causing death (Section 220) or causing bodily harm (Section 221) might apply if a person knows they have a contagious illness and intentionally acts to spread it to others and one or more of those other people suffer bodily harm or death as a result," a statement from the Department of Justice said in part.
The department also said the person's behaviour would have to be significantly different from what is expected of a reasonable person in those circumstances.
Health policy advisor Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid compared the severity of spreading COVID-19 to HIV transmission.
"I think we need to kook at COVID in the same perspective," Dr. Khalid said. "I think this is why the government now is looking at strict fines for people who violate the interventions of COVID-19."
Dr. Khalid added he understands people's patience is wearing thin, but said the rules are put in place for a reason.
"To not only protect you as an individual but also to protect others around you and community," he said.
Lewis said there's a lot of work that needs to be done for the law to catch up with the changing times of COVID-19.
"The Crown would have to establish all the education around COVID, the dangers, the higher risk of it being fatal or serious bodily harm, more so than the common flu."
Lewis added that process could take years to come into effect.