Sunday 25 October, 2020

Mask-wearing legislation passed in Parliament, now heads to Senate

Pictured: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, moves the Second Reading of The Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Photo via Facebook,
Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Pictured: Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, moves the Second Reading of The Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Photo via Facebook, Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Government is one step closer to stricter enforcement of the wearing of masks in public with the passing of the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the House of Representatives on Friday.

The bill, which seeks to amend the Public Health Ordinance to make provision for fixed penalties and fixed penalty notices for offences under the Public Health Ordinance, Ch. 12 No. 4.was passed with amendments around 4.45 pm.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi piloted the bill during the first sitting of the 12th Parliament.

He explained that the bill allows for a formula for a fixed penalty regime to be applied by way of regulations.

The regulations can then be adjusted from time to time, as needed.

He said: “The regulations will specify what the sum is and what it can be in multiple circumstances… it also then allows for easy variation of those sums by way of an order to amend the schedule to the regulation.”

“This Act is not drafted simply for mask wearing. It is a formula to allow for a number of events to be done by way of fixed penalty notice and it also allows for variation.”

The recommendations for penalties for not wearing a mask are as follows: Failure to wear a mask on first offence will attract a penalty of $1,000; for the second offence, $2,000; and by way of third offence, $5,000.

Following that, Al-Rawi said arrestable offences would apply.

The recommendation lists exemptions which include underlying medical conditions and a prescription of the offences.

Other proposals include an increase in the maximum penalty for breaches of regulations $50,000 to $250,000. 

Government initially went the route of using moral suasion as it pertains to the mandatory wearing of face masks covering the mouth and nose to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But, with T&T’s cases skyrocketing past 1,500 in the past few weeks Government is seeking to implement more stringent measures to manage the virus.

The Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will be debated in the Senate on Saturday.

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