Photo: Tamashraj Ramkissoon was charged with breaching the Public Health Ordinance Regulations which was enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Photo via the TTPS.

Police said a third bar owner was charged with running a bar in violation of COVID-19 regulations set out by government. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) said in a statement Sunday thatTamashraj Ramkissoon, of Arena Road, Freeport was arrested and charged after police reportedly found his premises open and sales being conducted on April 4. Police said around 11.10 am on April 4, 2020, officers of the Freeport CID were on patrol along the Arena Road, Freeport, when they observed Tom's Bar and Liquor Mart opened and persons exiting the premises with alcoholic beverages. The officers inquired from the proprietor who presented a Spirit Retailers Licence under the Liquor Licence Act, Chapter 84:10. The owner was warned that as a result of regulation 3 (1)(a) and 6 of the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov)] (No.6) Regulations, 2020, he was to desist from operating his business for the period of time specified under Regulation 6. The police officers then left. The police officers returned around 11:55 am and observed a man leaving the same premises with alcoholic beverages. They inquired as to where he purchased the said items and he indicated it was done at Tom's Bar and Liquor Mart. The police officers entered the business place and informed the owner of the offence of conducting a business, namely a bar, during the period specified under the regulations, and arrested him. The TTPS said Ramkissoon was granted bail in the sum of $25,000 at the Freeport Police Station and was scheduled to appear before the Couva Magistrates' Court on June 4, 2020. Ramkissoon was the third bar owner to be charged for breaching the Regulations during the COVID-19 crisis. Daryl Sirjuwas arrested on March 27 for operating his bar along the Southern Main Road, California. The TTPS said on March 30, Ernest Todd was arrested and charged for operating Larry's Bar at Dow Village, California. These cases are pending in court. Regulation 4 of the “Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 7) Regulations, 2020” states: “4. (1) For the purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it shall be an offence, during the period specified in regulation 7, for any person– (a) to conduct the business of a bar, whether or not the person is a licensed person under the Liquor Licences Act”. A person who contravenes this regulation commits an offenceand is liable on summary conviction to a fine of fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for a term of six months. The regulation is in effect until April 30, 2020.

Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, has launched an immediate investigation into a reportabout 15 residents blocking Bridge Road in Sangre Grande. The report claimed that they were burning debris last night in protest of the reported removal of COVID-19 patients from the Couva Hospital to a building in their area. Chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, AnilJuteram, is assisting thepolice in this investigation. Around 10.00pm on Friday,police responded to a report and on arrival found Bridge Road blocked with burning debris. There were about 15 peoplepresent. They wereallegedlyprotesting the apparent relocation of the patients to a refurbished Home for the Agedin Sangre Grande. Police removed the protestors while the burning debris was extinguished by fire officers. Commissioner Griffith has since launched an investigation into this protestin keeping with his policy thatpersons would not be allowed to block roads and burntiresas was done in the past.He reiterated his intolerance for this type of behavior.He says anyone seen in the vicinity of such protests, will be interviewed for lengthy periods to assist the police as to who are responsible for these protests. The CoP says, "You have your right to protest, you have your right to assembly, you have your right to march, but we need to understand that your right could never supersede and override the laws of Trinidad and Tobago or the rights of others." Video footage showing people at the scene of the protest will form part of the investigation. The CoP says the Police willnot hesitate to act and arrest persons in accordance with the Summary Offences Act, Chapter 11:02, Section 64 (1) (n) which statesthat any person who commits any of the following offences in any street is, for each offence, liable to a fine of two hundred dollars or to imprisonment for one month: (n.) in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage of any street.


Men stand close to their cars as they wait for hours to fill their cars up with gasoline in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 02, 2020. Lines at gas stations around the country's capital are getting longer and longer with some saying it was only this bad during the oil worker's strike of 2002. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

With gas lines across Venezuela growing, a controversial shipping magnate has stepped in to prevent the country from running out of fuel amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press has learned. The fuel shortage, in the nation that sits atop the world largest crude reserves, is the latest threat to Nicolas Maduro's rule at a time he is under intense US pressure to resign. Wilmer Ruperti's Maroil Trading Inc. billed state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA 12 million euros last month for the purchase of up to 250,000 barrels of 95-octane gasoline, according to a copy of the invoice obtained by AP. The gasoline was purchased from an undisclosed Middle Eastern country, said two people familiar with the transaction. They agreed to discuss the sensitive dealings only on condition of anonymity. The single gas shipment isn't going to resolve Venezuela's supply problems. But with the economy paralyzed, any amount of fuel is welcome relief, analysts said. Ruperti, a former oil tanker captain, has a history of coming to the rescue of Venezuela's socialist government at critical junctures, something that endeared him to the late President Hugo Chávez. But his latest gambit, which could help stave off a deepening humanitarian crisis, is bound to irritate the Trump administration, which this week doubled down on its campaign of support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó by sending Navy ships to the Caribbean on a counternarcotics mission following Maduro's indictment in the US, on narcoterrorist charges. Venezuela's oil fields and refineries have crumbled from years of mismanagement. More recently, fuel imports have dried up as the Trump administration tightened sanctions, targeting two trading houses owned by Russia's Rosneft for providing a lifeline to Maduro. Then came the coronavirus, which sent crude prices crashing and paralyzed what little was left of domestic production. "In Venezuela, the only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus are the gasoline shortages," said Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets. In recent days, gas lines have popped up across Caracas, which is typically immune from days' long waits common in the rest of the country. Most stations had closed as supplies ran out. At one of the few gas stations still open in the capital Thursday, hundreds of cars, taxis and trucks hugged the shoulder of a highway as heavily armed soldiers stared down motorists, some of whom had been waiting three days to fill up. Among those in the 3-kilometre long line was Javier Serrano, who relies on a beat-up blue 1968 Ford Falcon to eke out a meagre living as a taxi driver. "There's a curfew at night and no public transportation," he said. "One of my relatives could die at home because they don't have a vehicle." The government blames the gas shortages on US aggression. On Friday, it said it was formulating a "special fuel supply plan" to restore stockpiles in the "shortest possible time," allowing the nation to combat the coronavirus. "We deplore the position of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition that collude with foreign governments to plan and execute these actions against the Venezuelan people," said Industry Minister Tareck El Aissami. "History will mercilessly judge these traitors." Enter Ruperti to help again. In 2002, he chartered a fleet of Russian tankers to import gasoline amid a months' long strike at PDVSA seeking to remove Chavez. More recently, he funded the defence of first lady Cilia Flores' two nephews in a politically charged US narcotics trial as well as that of American Joshua Holt, who was held for two years in a Caracas jail on what were seen as trumped-up weapons charges. Ruperti was decorated by Chavez with military honours for breaking the strike and saw his business as a prized PDVSA contractor boom. Ruperti showed his gratitude by giving the leftist leader two pistols used by independence hero Simon Bolivar, which reportedly cost him $1.6 million. Later, however, he was sued by a unit of the Russian shipping company for allegedly paying millions in bribes. Ruperti declined to comment. While US sanctions have driven away from Venezuela many established shipping companies and commodity traders, Ruperti appears to be little fazed. One of the documents obtained by AP shows his Swiss-based Maroil Trading AG opened accounts in dollars, euros and rubles at Moscow-based Derzhava Bank in November. One person said the gas that Maroil billed to PDVSA should arrive to Venezuela in the coming days. Dallen estimates it's enough to supply current demand for about a week. There have been only five deaths in Venezuela so far due to the coronavirus and most Venezuelans are closely observing a government-mandated lock-down, but concerns are rising that the already collapsed health care system will be overwhelmed if more people are infected. Protests have started to emerge among farmers who complain that their produce is rotting because they can't transport it to urban centres. "An acute gasoline shortage at this juncture would bring about a serious worsening of the country's humanitarian crisis, putting Venezuelans' lives at even greater risk," said Francisco Rodriguez, a Venezuelan economist who launched Oil For Venezuela, a US-based group lobbying for sanctions relief.

Law enforcement officers wear masks while working at a newly opened free drive through Covid-19 testing site provided by United Memorial Medical Center Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Houston. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that Canada won't bring retaliatory or punitive measures against the United States after the Trump administration announced it would prevent the export of N95 protective masks. President Trump said he would block shipments of the masks from the United States to ensure they are available in the US for use during the coronavirus pandemic. "We need the masks. We don't want any other people getting it," Trump said. Trudeau said Canadian officials are having constructive conversations with US authorities, and he planned to speak to Trump in the coming days. He said he would tell Trump that both countries are interlinked in ways that would hurt the nations if supply chains were cut. "We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive," Trudeau said. "We know it is in both our countries interests to cooperate." The prime minister noted Canada ships medical gloves and testing kits to the US and said materials from the N95 masks originate in Canada. Health workers in Canada rely on the masks, and Canadian nurses also cross the bridge from Windsor, Ontario, to work in the Detroit medical system every day, he said. Manufacturing giant 3M says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing N95 masks to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators. "They can sell to others, but they should be taking care of our country," Trump said. "3M has not treated our country well. And if they do, great. And if they don't, they are going to have a hell of a price to pay." The company has argued that blocking exports will raise "significant humanitarian implications" abroad and lead other countries to retaliate by withholding much-needed medical supplies from the US The spat between the president and a leading American manufacturer started Thursday, after Trump used his authority under the 1950 Defense Production Act to direct the government to acquire the "appropriate" number of N95 respirators from Minnesota-based 3M and its subsidiaries. The N95 masks, also called respirators, provide more protection against the virus that causes COVID-19 than do ordinary surgical masks. Hospital officials around the world have warned of a dire shortage of masks and other protective gear for health care workers treating infected patients. 3M said it has raised US production of N95 masks from 22 million in January to 35 million in March, with the entire increase being distributed in the United States. It said 10 million N95 masks that it produced in China will be shipped to the US. The company has traditionally exported about 6 million masks a month to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a primary supplier. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he couldn't stress enough how disappointed he was in Trump for making the decision against America's neighbour and longstanding closet ally. "It's like one of your family members (says), 'OK, you go starve and we'll go feast on the rest of the meal.' I'm just so disappointed right now," Ford said Saturday. "We have a great relationship with the US and they pull these shenanigans? Unacceptable." Alberta Premier Jason Kenney didn't hold back his outrage at Trump's decision either. "It reminds me of what happened in 1939 and 1940 when Canada was part of the fight against global fascism — the United States sat out the first two or three years and actually initially refused to even provide supplies to Canada and the United Kingdom that was leading the fight at the time," Kenney said. Canada has more than 12,924 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 214 deaths. 22 of the deaths are linked to one nursing home in Ontario. Canada has conducted more than 309,000 tests.


St Augustine MP, Prakash Ramadhar, said he asked an attorney to ‘explore legal options’ in connection with a local doubles business which was allegedly shut down by the authorities, due to current COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) regulations. Ramadhar said via a social media statementon April 5, 2020, that heasked attorney Larry Lalla to examine legal options available and said a letter was sent to the National Security Minister Stuart Young. Lalla clarified that the letter was not a pre-action protocol letter but a call that authorities 'exercise common sense' when exercising their duties. He said with regard to the doubles business in question there was no issue of congregation as customers had been instructed to place orders by phone and collect via a curbside pick-up service. “Doubles is a delicacy to every strata in Trinidad and Tobago. But to the working man, it is a staple in their diet that is affordable and accessible. We have now heard that the police have shut down a doubles vendor from conducting their business in the Constituency of St. Augustine.” “I imagine that the Police Officers acted on the basis that there is to be no congregation, to which we must all abide.” “However, in relation to the specific vendor, they had put into place protocols to ensure social distancing and it was a curbside pick-up service, where orders are placed via the telephone and an employee would bring the order out to the customer.” The business shared social media posts asking why the business was shut down when all relevant COVID-19 regulations were followed. Ramadhar said that the business enacted the same health and safety protocols as other fast-food businesses. “There was no issue of congregation. In the classic sense, a doubles vendor's stall will be seen as a place where many would congregate, where there would be ordering and eating on the spot, and this certainly must not be permitted.” “But just as KFC and the Banks have put protocols in place, any vendor who puts the same protocols in place should be entitled to equal treatment by the law.” Ramadhar said common sense should prevail. “It is a call now to the authorities to ensure that we exercise common sense in whatever rules or regulations that we put in place and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” “Protocols have been put in place, and have been exercised by other businesses, and equally any vendor: doubles, corn soup or otherwise, who wish to continue their trade must be allowed to do so because one does not know how long we will be under these regulations.” “There must be a balance between normalcy and the need to protect our citizens which we must all adhere to and participate in. Those persons who abide by stipulated and proper protocols should be allowed equally to continue their work, and to provide an essential service to our communities.” Ramadhar also shared the letter sent by Lalla to Minister Young, which states that the doubles shop is not a stand or stall but is done on a shop or parlour setting at a property owned by the business owner. The essential services listed under the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 7) Regulations, 2020, include “services relating to food, beverage, agriculture and fisheriessuch as– (i) take-away and delivery food service operations but does not include in-dining facilities”. Under the Regulations,non-essential services have been suspended until April 15, 2020.

Photo: Tamashraj Ramkissoon was charged with breaching the Public Health Ordinance Regulations which was enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Photo via the TTPS.

Police said a third bar owner was charged with running a bar in violation of COVID-19 regulations set out by government. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) said in a statement Sunday thatTamashraj Ramkissoon, of Arena Road, Freeport was arrested and charged after police reportedly found his premises open and sales being conducted on April 4. Police said around 11.10 am on April 4, 2020, officers of the Freeport CID were on patrol along the Arena Road, Freeport, when they observed Tom's Bar and Liquor Mart opened and persons exiting the premises with alcoholic beverages. The officers inquired from the proprietor who presented a Spirit Retailers Licence under the Liquor Licence Act, Chapter 84:10. The owner was warned that as a result of regulation 3 (1)(a) and 6 of the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov)] (No.6) Regulations, 2020, he was to desist from operating his business for the period of time specified under Regulation 6. The police officers then left. The police officers returned around 11:55 am and observed a man leaving the same premises with alcoholic beverages. They inquired as to where he purchased the said items and he indicated it was done at Tom's Bar and Liquor Mart. The police officers entered the business place and informed the owner of the offence of conducting a business, namely a bar, during the period specified under the regulations, and arrested him. The TTPS said Ramkissoon was granted bail in the sum of $25,000 at the Freeport Police Station and was scheduled to appear before the Couva Magistrates' Court on June 4, 2020. Ramkissoon was the third bar owner to be charged for breaching the Regulations during the COVID-19 crisis. Daryl Sirjuwas arrested on March 27 for operating his bar along the Southern Main Road, California. The TTPS said on March 30, Ernest Todd was arrested and charged for operating Larry's Bar at Dow Village, California. These cases are pending in court. Regulation 4 of the “Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 7) Regulations, 2020” states: “4. (1) For the purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it shall be an offence, during the period specified in regulation 7, for any person– (a) to conduct the business of a bar, whether or not the person is a licensed person under the Liquor Licences Act”. A person who contravenes this regulation commits an offenceand is liable on summary conviction to a fine of fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for a term of six months. The regulation is in effect until April 30, 2020.