Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday expressed his disappointment at a front page newspaper picture that showed several people on Tuesday not wearing masks in the capital as Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi defended the decision to have children over eight years old be served with a TT$1,000 fixed penalty notice for not wearing masks in public.
Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference, where it was disclosed that Trinidad and Tobago had now recorded 28 deaths and 1,839 positive cases, which includes 1,120 active cases, Deyalsingh said that he was disappointed that people here were not complying with rules and regulations to curb the spread of the virus that has killed 848,000 and infected 25.3 million others worldwide.
“COVID is asking us as a society to organise ourselves,” Deyalsingh said, warning “to get through COVID-19 it is going to take all of us”.
The health minister said that many individuals here have been complaining of a lack of access to masks, but, using a photo on yesterday’s edition of the Newsday newspaper, he said only four of the 35 people in the photo had been adhering to the new regulations to wear masks in public.
“Clearly [it] is not an ‘availability of masks’ issue, it is a compliance issue,” he said, adding, “we have tried moral suasion and many are complying… As of this weekend, we have gone the way of legislation.
“It is not only the wearing of a mask, stop congregating,” he added, noting that those gathered in the photo were clearly in violation of the legislation.
There had been widespread discussion here as to whether or not the Keith Rowley Government had overstepped the rights of children when it passed the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020, that stipulates a fine from as low as TT$1,000 for the first offence to TT$5,000 for a third offence.
Al-Rawi told reporters that laws compelling children to wear masks have been strongly recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and all countries in the Commonwealth, including some in the Caribbean.
Under the legislation, a child over eight years can be served with a fixed penalty notice for not wearing a mask in public, a vehicle or vessel, unless there is a reasonable excuse for not doing so, and the attorney general said that the Government had analysed the situation in many Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
“And in all these jurisdictions, children are treated with. And in some of these jurisdictions, there is no exception for children of any age at all.