Trinidad announces fines for COVID-19 breaches
Port of Spain – When Trinidad and Tobago’s borders reopen on July 17, any traveller who lies about their coronavirus (COVID-19) results or vaccination status could be fined as much as TT$350 000 (US$51 568) or jailed for a year.
Those penalties were outlined in the Quarantine (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who moved the Bill, explained that Section 7 of the legislation speaks to a person who knowingly furnishes any information which is false, or makes a wilful omission. It further provides for the consequences of assault, resisting or wilfully intimidating officers.
Before the Act was amended, Section 7 provided for a maximum fine of only TT$6 000 (US$884) and imprisonment for six months.
“We anticipate with the entry of people coming into Trinidad and Tobago that they will have to document and produce their PCR tests, they would have to document and speak to the truth and validity of their vaccinations, and, therefore, we cannot leave the penalty at $6 000 if you tell an untruth to an officer at the point of entry in quarantine circumstances,” Al-Rawi said.
“We want to make sure with the opening of borders, the use of technology, that people are conscientiously aware that if they tell an untruth and risk the lives of people in this country, you are also risking the livelihoods of people,” he added.
The Attorney General said the legislative changes were important “to protect Trinidad and Tobago livelihoods so we can open the economy, and have persuasive provisions in law to ensure that people tell the truth”.
However, Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial said the penalty was too harsh.
Noting that there were Trinidadians who had been unable to return home because of the closed borders, she said: “You’re talking about nationals who have been stranded abroad for more than a year coming back into the country who – and I’m not saying it is excusable – may run afoul of one of these provisions.”
At the same time, she expressed concern about people breaching quarantine orders and the lack of enforcement and monitoring of people under quarantine.
“The ability of the country to control people who ought to be in quarantine, to control the information that people are giving, to control the danger to the public that can be presented by people giving false data, really hinges not on a fine or that of a heavy penalty, but on our ability to properly police this whole system of quarantine,” Lutchmedial said. (CMC)