Sunday 25 October, 2020

AG clarifies mask law for children over 8, chastises ‘smart-man-ism’

Attorney General Faris-Al-Rawi clarified the public health regulations which requires everyone, including children over eight, to wear a face mask when travelling and in public spaces.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, Al-Rawi said while the regulations state that a child over eight years of age may be issued a fixed penalty notice, under the Children Act the matter of the payment for the fine would be done through the Children Court via the child’s parents or legal guardians.

‘The only way that you can bring the child to the attention of public health…after police would have enquired as to whether there was a reasonable excuse as to why you don’t have a mask on…there is no adult present, yes, the law provides that someone who is eight years and above may be subjected to the issuance of a fixed penalty notice.’

‘I want to remind, however that the Children Act works in conjunction with this law…Sections 56 and 57 provide that where a child (under 18 years of age) is charged with any offence, treatable by a fine, damages or cost, that the parent, guardian or person with responsibility is the person to who the court will look to for the payment of the fine.’  

Al-Rawi added that the notice also includes space for the inclusion of the parent or guardian’s information which can also be recorded.

He also drew reference other countries with similar policies.

‘COVID-19 is something capable of being spread by children as well so we must regulate…that’s the law, the parent or person with responsibility goes (with the child); they must pay the fine.’

Al-Rawi said this would be done via a virtual hearing in line with health and safety procedures.

Regarding reports that some drivers allegedly placed placards on their vehicles stating they were not PH taxis, Al-Rawi urged against ‘smart-man-ism’:

‘There’s going to be some heating up of the position. We need to be our brother’s keeper. This is not a time for ‘smart-man-ism’ or ‘smart-woman-ism’.

‘It’s not a time to be as novel as you can be in every exception as to why the law ought not to apply to you. Let’s call out our Trinidadians and Tobagonians, please comply with the mask-wearing requirements.’

‘We have a thriving PH industry which is extremely difficult to manage. We’re in tough economic times where some people are earning a living by PH management.’

He added that despite many objections regarding the need for family members to all wear face masks while travelling together, government would not be changing their position on this.

‘We have one alternative: go to the position of saying, if you’re a member of a household you don’t need to wear a mask, and then call out all the road block facilities, sit in long lines of traffic and have the police ask everybody to demonstrate that they’re members of the same household.

‘Worse yet, many of us don’t have the same surnames and are members of the same household…let’s just be practical. Put on your mask. It’s the same as the person using public transportation. We have to simply exercise common sense and reasonableness. Let’s allow the country to get back to work by wearing your mask.’

Under the public health regulations, the public is required to wear face masks while travelling and in public spaces, or face a fine of up to $1,000.

Children under eight and drivers travelling alone are not required to wear face masks. There are also other exemptions which constitute a 'reasonable excuse' such as people who have medical conditions that prevent the wearing of a mask, people who are assisting others via lip reading, anyone fleeing danger to their lives, pausing to eat, drink, or take medication, or if they're required to remove their mask temporarily for identification purposes. 

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