T&T | Trinidad and Tobago locks down again, face masks now mandatory

T&T | Trinidad and Tobago locks down again, face masks now mandatory

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses reporters on Covid-19 rollback measures at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on Saturday. Seated, from left, are Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

By Wiredja News Desk

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, August 16, 2020 – As Trinidad and Tobago is once again placed into partial lockdown, prime minister Dr. Keith Rowley says by Tuesday he hopes to have legislation making the wearing of masks in public gatherings mandatory, as the country now has community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Currently a breach in the covid19 regulations is punishable by either a $50,000 fine or six months in jail.

Addressing a news conference on Saturday, Dr Rowley said: “We cannot now continue to allow a significant proportion of the population to be unmasked when we do know that in managing the virus on this high concentration in the population, the wearing of face masks is a useful and effective tool in helping us restrain the virus. The time of persuasion has now passed and we will take such action.”

“We are consulting with the Attorney General (Faris Al-Rawi) at the moment and within the next 48 hours, or thereabouts, we will indicate what action we will take with respect to the mandatory use of face masks. We are going to find legislative arrangements which will allow action to be taken against (any) person in the national population who insists on not wearing a face mask in public, because we are now convinced that they are endangering the entire population, and, therefore, we will cease to rely on suasion and move to have it become an offence to not cover your nose and mouth in a public place,” Rowley said.

The TT Government has had to revert to locking down certain aspects of the economy in order to contain the community spread of Covid-19.

In addition to the mandatory wearing of face masks in public Rowley has announced a prohibition on the in-house consumption of food and drinks at restaurants, bars, food courts, malls and their precincts.

The new measures took effect from 6 a.m. Sunday and will remain in force over the next 28 days.

All places of worship, beaches, gyms, all contact sports, casinos and members clubs, cinemas will be closed, public gatherings will be down to five people, with weddings, funerals and christening gatherings limited to ten, the PM also announced.

Maxi-taxis and taxis will operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Under the new dispensation,  the prime minister says the school term has been deferred until December 31 and  “all teaching institutions are to remain closed until further notice”. In addition, while the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam will take place as scheduled on Thursday, students will sit the exam and go straight back home… as quickly as possible,” says Rowley.

“It is our intention to close all teaching institutions until this phase is over and it appears at this point that that period of closure for teaching institutions will go until December 31.

“More than likely, we going to have to shut off that first term of the 2020/2021 school year,” Rowley  said.

And Minister of National Security Stuart Young also indicated the Government would slow down the repatriation process, due to space constraints and the requirement not to have either the formal health care system or the quarantine system overwhelmed.

“Right now we will have to step back a little bit from the grant of exemptions,” Young said, adding the number of people repatriated has always been dependent on the State-supervised quarantine facilities and on not having the parallel healthcare system overwhelmed.

Young expressed surprise that the number of people wanting to come home had increased after having brought home a number of applicants.

He explained that this was so because some people who have been living abroad now want to uproot and return home.

However, he said the Government would continue to give priority to those who were on temporary visits, including the elderly, the sick and those with small children, he said.

Pointing to the high costs of the last shutdown, the Prime Minister said the Government did not want the country to be in this position.

“If that is what we have to do to save lives, we will have to do it, but it may not be with the level of comfort and support that we had in the period before (April to July 31),” he said, adding that limited resources would prevent a repeat of that level of social support.

The Prime Minister said the Government was trying to prevent a situation where the number of sick people becomes so great that the health system does not have the capacity to deal with them.

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