Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley on Saturday implored nationals to wear masks covering their noses and mouths as the government announced that it would continue to implement all the measures outlined two weeks ago to curb the significant spread of the coronavirus (COVId-19).
Rowley told a news conference that as of Monday, the wearing of the mask would become mandatory and according to the amendment to the existing Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which would be passed by both houses of parliament on Saturday, they face a fine from as low as TT$1,000 (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) for the first offence to TT$5,000 for a third offence.
“From Monday it will be illegal to be out in the public place without a mask, “Rowley said, adding that “unfortunately it had to come to that’ after indicating that some people were reluctant to follow the various measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 1, 577 people and killed 19 on the twin-island.
“As of Monday it will be a matter fo the police,” Rowley said, adding “without the law people were taking the position I don’t have to do that.
‘There will always be minority positions. Let us do what is reasonable,” he said, adding however that “there is no scientific data to make drastic changes” such as another lockdown of the island.
He said the government would continue to be guided by the office of the Chief Medical Officer, telling reporters he had passed on to the police, an invitation he received to attend a party.
“If I come early it is TT$50, a lot of nice girls, if you come late it is TT$100. I passed that to the police and I hope the police attended that party and lock up everybody who was there, because I am just fed up of people just playing the fool when they are talking about lives and livelihoods and those who have to party then we have to police them. Simple as that,” Rowley said.
“Some people see this as a profitable environment. It is not a profit that is going to work for the wide national community, it is those kinds of gatherings that will cause us to be struggling if we find ourselves unnecessarily infected,” he added.
On August 15, the government announced a series of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which in recent days had pushed the island into the category of “community spread”.
Rowley repeated the measures that included all in-house dining at restaurant and bars, food courts and malls being suspended with only pick up services, all beaches and rivers closed as well as all places of worship, gyms and fitness centers.
He said all contact sports will stop and waterparks closed, as well as casinos and members clubs, and cinemas. In addition there will be no gatherings of more than five people permitted, and weddings and funerals, christenings will only allow for a maximum of 10 people.
Rowley said that all public transport will function at 50 per cent capacity and that all travel to Tobago will be on an essential basis.
The government said that members of the public are urged to o stay at home unless absolutely necessary and Rowley reiterated that the virus has brought about a new “normal” for living in Trinidad and Tobago and indeed the wider world.
“Our system is working well and we should not…panic and co-exist with a virus which is becoming better and better known.
“We (the world) have been engaged now for eight months in responding to this virus,” he said, noting the developments in the scientific world that have made it easier to understand how the virus works and how it could be prevented and treated even though there is no known vaccine at the moment.
He said that the health sector is responding well to the pandemic with the authorities indicating that there is sufficient bed space at hospitals based on the new initiatives announced earlier this week to allow people to be quarantined at home.
“The numbers you heard today will tell you we are in a good position now with respect to hospital space and step down facilities and we are not expecting to eliminate the virus for our population. One of the realities we are facing now as human beings is that this virus has joined us on this planet and is among populations around the world.
‘What we have to do going forward is be in a position to have the health care and the public health response so that the virus does not overcome us and that overcoming is measured quickly by an ability or inability to provide health care to those who need it,” Rowley said.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told reporters that the authorities have agreed to provide free quarantine space to persons whose households cannot afford them to remain at home during the 14 day quarantine period.
Rowley said that he will hold talks with the Ministry of National Security regarding the border closure and that the measures which have been announced to prevent the spread of the virus will be reviewed on September 14.