without a face mask

new law: A man without a face mask walks beside a boy wearing a bandana along the Caroni South Bank Road, St Helena, yesterday. —Photo:

ISHMAEL SALANDY 

FROM tomorrow, In­dep­endence Day, you have to wear a mask even if you are in your private vehicle, so long as you are not alone.

And anybody who is without a mask will be required to stay at home.

In addition, there is a two-week Public Service lockdown, with only essen­tial services opera­ting.

These were some of the announcements from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and National Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday.

The mask bill is now law, the President, Paula-Mae Weekes, having assented to it yesterday, immediately after its passage in the Senate.

This was confirmed by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who said he was in the process of printing the fixed penalty notices which would be distributed to the police.

“I have a few logistics to put in place. I have been moving full speed ahead with respect to the regulations to create the fixed penalty system for mask wearing and to put that into effect,” he said in an interview last evening.

Speaking hours earlier at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, the National Security Minister said: “There is one question that we are being bombarded with...with the mandatory mask wearing, a lot of people have been asking, ‘Do I still have to wear my mask in my personal car?’.

“The answer is that it is going to be very difficult to police if you are with family, or if persons are in a PH car. If it is one person in a vehicle, I think you wouldn’t be charged...for one person in a vehicle not wearing a mask.

“But we are asking, even when with family, wear the mask because it is going to be difficult from an enforcement point of view, especially since we are all familiar with PH drivers.... If it is one person in a vehicle, I guess the (Chief Medical Officer) will allow us that indulgence, but once it is more than that, please wear your masks,” Young said.

The Prime Minister said all the lockdown features introduced two weeks ago will continue until September 13 or 14.

In addition, he announced a two-week Public Service lockdown, with only essential services operating.

He also announced Government was considering a softening of the approach with respect to the 50 per cent capacity for maxi-taxis and taxis.

He said the maxi-taxis had put a reasonable proposal to the Government on how they could space people in their vehicles for a 65 per cent capacity, and Government was “minded” to allow it. And in taxis, an arrangement of one person per window would be allowed.

He stressed that from tomorrow, every person in all these vehicles would have to wear a mask since the legislation on mandatory mask wearing is expected to become law then.

The Prime Minister said he heard it being said in the Parliament that poor people cannot afford to pay the penalties.

“Well, the best thing that poor people can do is put on the mask, and there would be no penalty,” he said.

He said he was sure within the population, there would be enough masks by tomorrow.

“And if you can’t get a mask, what is really required is a covering of the nose and mouth, and I have seen some really creative arrangements,” he said, urging people to get serious.

No religious

ceremonies at beaches

Asked about religious rituals that are done at the seaside, the Prime Minister remained adamant that the closure of rivers and beaches applied across the board.

He said at the end of March, there was Spi­ritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and all kinds of things were planned and had to be cancelled, “for the simple reason that we could not encourage the congregation of people”.

“We are doing all of this to prevent a virus from moving from one person to another, and any situation which allows that bridge to be available—gatherings— that is why we said no contact sport, no team sport.

“Thousands of young people are desperate to go out there and play team sports...but because the condition under which they would be operating is conducive to the virus being spread from one person to another...we have had to say no for the time being,” he said.

The Prime Minister said it was a good thing the beaches were closed as the country celebra­ted Independence because a good time would have been had at beach parties and gatherings, only to have unpleasant consequences 14 days later.

He said as important and as spiritual as church is, places of worship remain closed.

“There are no exem­tions” on the rule against gatherings, he said.

The Prime Minister said he received an invitation to a party in which, “If you come early, it is $50 and a lot of nice girls and if you come late, it is $100. I passed that to the police and I hope that the police would have attended that party and lock up everybody who was there.”

He said he was fed up of people “playing the fool when we are talking about lives and livelihood. And those who have to party, then we have to police them”.

With respect to errant people who breach their home quarantine rules, the Prime Minister said if people knew of anyone who was supposed to be at home quarantining and the person was “parading up and down the place”, they should call the police.

He however urged the population not to treat with “scorn” persons who are suspected of being Covid-positive, who are Covid-positive or who have been exposed to Covid-positive persons.

Liberalisation of

exemptions

The Prime Minis­ter said next week he would be having a meeting with the Ministry of National Security, and Government would maximise the number of exemptions granted.

“Given where we are at now and with the use of home quarantine, our case to keep people outside has been con­siderably reduced and we would grant the exemptions in a much more liberal way, and when they (nationals) arrive here, if there are concerns, the CMO will manage that,” he said.

“After eight months, we need to close this chapter in a much more effective way. Those persons who have been on the outside have been very patient; we need to bring them home as quickly as we can, but we do have transportation issues. Even when we grant the exemptions, there are still going to be issues of how they get here,” he said, adding Government’s pri­mary concern was nationals who are domiciled here.

Asked whether retur­ning nationals will be allowed to home quarantine, the Prime Minister said: “We haven’t reached there yet, but I don’t see people coming home, now that we have moved to home quarantine...now that the mandatory quarantine is not available, we have to determine what happens to these people when they come home.”

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh interjected to say there was more space.

The Prime Minister said: “Since we have more space and our tes­ting capacity has improved...I think we must get far more people home.”

Happy Independence

The Prime Minister concluded the media conference by wishing the national community a safe, happy and reflective Independence.

“Hopefully, next Independence, we will look back on this period as one of great difficulty which we have overcome with aplomb because we are the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and we are to manage and handle our story good enough to come out of it together successfully,” he said.

Restrictions to continue

• Continuation of the restrictions on in-house dining.

• Churches, cinemas, gyms, beaches, waterparks remain closed.

• Retrictions remain on travel between Trinidad and Tobago.

• Casinos and members clubs remain closed.

• Weddings and funerals remain limited to ten people.

• No contact and team sports.

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