An ‘evolving’ and ‘fluid’ situation: that’s how the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is being described by governments around the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there is legislation to deal with such a crisis.

Public Health Ordinance and Regulations

The Public Health Ordinance Chapter 12 No. 4 is dated January 1, 1917 and it gives the state wide-ranging powers in situations like this.

Section 103 of the Ordinance gives the state the power to declare any disease as an infectious disease or a dangerous infectious disease.

By Legal Notice No. 17 of 2020, President Paula-Mae Weekes declared the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to be a dangerous infectious disease.

Section 105 of the Ordinance gives the Minister of Health (Governor in Council of the Central Board of Health) the direction of all measures dealing with dangerous infectious diseases, and the power to make regulations with regard to the control of any dangerous infectious disease for all or any of the following purposes:

(a) the restraint, segregation, and isolation of persons suffering from any dangerous infectious disease, or likely from exposure to infection to suffer from any such disease;

(b) the removal to hospital and the curative treatment of persons suffering from any dangerous infectious disease.;

(c) the removal, this infection, and destruction of personal effects, goods, houses and other property exposed to infection from any dangerous infectious disease;

(d) the speedy burial or cremation of the dead, and in such last mentioned case the provision of crematoria;

(e) house to house visitation and inspection;

(f) the provision of medical aid and accommodation;

(g) the promotion of cleanliness, ventilation, and disinfection;

(h) the prevention of the spread of dangerous infectious diseases as well on the seas and rivers and waters of the Colony, and on the high seas within 3 miles of the coast thereof, as on land; and

(i) the doing of any such matter or thing as may appear advisable for pertaining or checking such diseases;

Since March 2020, the Minister of Health has made several regulations, through a number of Legal Notices pursuant to this section. These are consolidated in the latest regulations in Legal Notice No. 90 of 2020 dated May 10, 2020.

Duration of regulations

These regulations are in effect (from May 11) until May 24, 2020.

Public transport

The regulations include a provision that a person who provides public transport in a motor vehicle shall only carry in such motor vehicle half the number of passengers for which it is licenced to carry.

‘Stay-at-home’ orders

The regulations also provide that persons shall not, without reasonable justification –

(a) be at any work place (save and except certain specified ‘essential’ business operations);

(b) gather in any public place where that gathering exceeds five persons or is not associated with the specified list of businesses; or

(c) be found at or in any beach, river, stream or spring, unless the presence of that person is essential for the carrying out or provision of the ‘essential’ services.

Gathering‘ is defined by the regulations as “the congregating or assembly of a group of persons in one area.”

Services‘ is defined as “including services provided by any employee, worker, on-thye-job trainee, trainee or apprentice.”

The specified ‘essential’ businesses are:

(a) the Office of the President;

(b) the Parliament and any committees thereof;

(c) the Cabinet and any committees thereof;

(d) the Judiciary, that is to say, the Supreme Court of Judicature, the Magistrates’ Courts, the Industrial Court, the Environmental Commission, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, the Tax Appeal Board;

(e) the Caribbean Court of Justice;

(f) the Tobago House of Assembly and any committees thereof;

(g) the Office of Disaster Preparedness and the Tobago Emergency Management Agency;

(h) Protective Services, namely –
(i) the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service;
(ii) the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force;
(iii) the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service;
(iv) the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service;
(v) the Immigration Division;
(vi) the Strategic Services Agency;
(vii) Special Reserve Police;
(viii) Supplemental Police, that is to say, Rural Police and Estate Police;
(ix) Municipal Police Services

(i) primary emergency services, namely State and private emergency ambulance services and all emergency call centres;

(j) law offices and legal services;

(k) the Diplomatic Corps;

(l) basic essential, janitorial and maintenance services concerning the provision of –
(i) health;
(ii) hospital;
(ii) water;
(iii) electricity
(iv) fire;
(iv) sanitation;
(v) civil aviation; and
(vi) telecommunications;

(m) the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago

(n) services supporting the operation, inspection, and maintenance of essential public works facilities and operations including –
(i) water and sewer main breaks;
(ii) fleet maintenance personnel;
(iii) traffic signal maintenance; and
(iv) other emergent issues;

(o) health services such as –
(i) District Medical Health Officers, Medical Social Workers;
(ii) services of public and private hospitals, laboratories, infirmaries, nursing homes and hospices, funeral
homes, crematoria and burial grounds;
(iii) services in support of hospitals, pharmacies; and
(iv) the provision of medical supplies to hospitals and pharmacies including sanitary and hygiene products;
(v) medical practitioners registered under the Medical Board Act and employees necessary for the operations of their private practices;
(vi) the urgent provison of dental, optometric, opthalmologic, physical therapy, occupational therapy;

(p) essential janitorial and maintenance services for private condominium or town house residential homes and public and private facilities;

(q) prisons, Rehabilitation Centres, Immigration Detention Centre or other places of detention;

(r) Children’s Homes, places for the care of the differently abled, socially displaced, the elderly and geriatric homes and persons providing care at private residences;

(s) private security firms;

(t) social workers, workers who provide social welfare support and non-governmental organisations that work with the socially disadvantaged and vulnerable;

(u) care givers to the elderly and those that require care for medical reason;

(v) support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste;

(w) hardware stores including electrical and plumbing establishments;

(x) financial and insurance services such as-
(i) banking business and business of a financial nature, as defined in the Financial Institutions Act and non-banks and the Unit Trust Corporation;
(ii) non-banks and remittance facilities;
(iii) credit unions under the Cooperative Societies Act;
(iv) the processing and maintenance of systems for processing insurance and financial transactions and services (e.g., information technology, payment, clearing, and settlement, wholesale funding, insurance services, capital markets activities);
(v) the provision of consumer access to banking and lending services, including ATMs, and the moving of currency and payments (e.g., armored cash carriers); and
(vi) the provision of support for financial operations, such as services in relation to staffing data, technology and security operations centers;

(y) the services of live-in domestic workers only and service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators;

(z) retail services, such as discount stores, markets, supermarkets, fruit stalls or shops, vegetable stalls or shops, bakeries, pharmacies and “parlours”, for the provision of food, medicine or other necessities of life;

(aa) wholesale stores for the provision of food, medicine or other necessities of life;

(ab) Ministries and Municipal Corporations;

(ac) the Inland Revenue Division, the Treasury Division, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and the Customs and Excise Division;

(ad) manufacture, transportation and logistics services, such as the services of –
(i) employees of firms manufacturing refrigeration systems and products including those providing services that enable logistics operations, including cooling, storing, packaging, and distributing products for wholesale or retail sale or use;
(ii) maritime transportation workers, port workers, mariners, equipment operators;
(iii) truck drivers who haul hazardous and waste materials to support critical infrastructure, capabilities, functions, and services;
(iv) automotive repair and maintenance facilities only to provide direct support to identified essential services in this subregulation;
(v) manufactures and distributors of food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, including the packaging and bottling of these items;
(vi) postal and shipping workers, including private companies;
(vii) employees who repair and maintain aircraft, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers;
(viii) air transportation employees, including air traffic controllers, ramp personnel, aviation security, and aviation management;
(ix) workers who support the maintenance and operation of cargo by air transportation, including flight crews, maintenance, airport operations, and other on- and off- airport facilities workers;
(x) workers connected with the loading and unloading and repair of ships and with the storage and delivery of goods at, or from, ports, docks, wharves, storage facilities and warehouses operated in connection with ports, docks or wharves; and
(xi) public transportation by water-taxi, ferry, motor vehicle, bus, including buses operated by the Public Transport Services Corporation;

(ae) the services of workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products;

(af) the services of workers supporting newspapers and media houses;

(ag) services relating to food, beverage and agriculture, fisheries such as food and beverage manufacturer employees and their suppliers’ employees-
(i) including those employed in food processing facilities;
(ii) at livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities at pet and animal feed processing facilities;
(iii) at human food facilities producing by-products for animal food and beverage production facilities;
(iv) at the production of food packaging;
(v) including farm workers who are employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production packaging, and distribution; manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of veterinary drugs, truck delivery and transport, farm and fishery labour needed to produce our food supply domestically;
(vi) workers who must look after and feed animals at zoos or animal shelters;
(vii) fishermen;
(viii) farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops, commodity inspection, storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs;
(ix) employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution, including warehouse workers, vendor managed inventory control managers;
(x) workers supporting the sanitation of all food manufacturing processes and operations from wholesale to retail;
(xi) workers in food testing labs in private industries and in institutions of higher education;
(xii) workers essential for assistance programs and government payments, employees of companies engaged in the production of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the water treatment and sanitizing industry and the food and agriculture industry, including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids;
(xiii) animal agriculture workers to include those employed in veterinary health, manufacturing and distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines, animal drugs, feed ingredients, feed, and bedding, etc., transportation of live animals, animal medical materials, transportation of deceased animals for disposal, raising of animals for food, animal production operations, slaughter and packing plants and associated regulatory and government workforce;
(xiv) employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance equipment and other infrastructure necessary for food, agricultural production and distribution;
(xv) workers engaged in the manufacture of alcoholic products and non-alcoholic beverages;
(xvi) workers engaged in the supply of fruit vegetables, meat and fish to supermarkets, shops, parlours, fruit shops or stalls, vegetable shops or stalls and establishments where prepared food is sold; and
(xvii) workers engaged in the supply of marketable commodities to supermarkets, shops, parlours, fruit stalls and shops or stalls and shops and establishment where prepared food is sold.

(ah) the services of workers engaged in the production, manufacture and supply of medical supplies and equipment and the servicing and repair of medical equipment;

(ai) the services of workers for wholesale suppliers for groceries, supermarkets, parlours and similar shops;

(aj) energy services including the services of workers in-
(i) the electricity industry such as-
(A) workers who maintain, ensure, or restore the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power, including call centers, utility workers, reliability engineers and fleet maintenance technicians;
(B) workers at generation, transmission, and electric facilities;
(C) IT and OT technology staff for EMS (Energy Management Systems) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and utility data centers; Cybersecurity engineers; cybersecurity risk management and back-up data technology;
(D) vegetation management crews and traffic workers who support; and
(E) environmental remediation/monitoring technicians, instrumentation, protection, andcontrol technicians;
(ii) petroleum industries such as-
(A) petroleum stations and convenience marts attached thereto;
(B) petroleum product storage, pipeline, marine transport, terminals, road transport;
(C) crude oil storage facilities, pipeline, and marine transport;
(D) petroleum refinery facilities;
(E) petroleum security operations center employees and workers who support emergency response services;
(F) petroleum operations control rooms or centers;
(G) petroleum drilling, extraction, production, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use
fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing;
(H) companies that provide services to oil and gas services; and
(I) onshore and offshore operations for
maintenance and emergency response; and
(iii) the natural gas, propane and petrochemical industries including for –
(A) natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, including compressor stations;
(B) underground storage of natural gas;
(C) natural gas processing plants, and those that deal with natural gas liquids;
(D) Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities;
(E) natural gas security operations center, natural gas operations dispatch and control rooms or centers natural gas emergency response and customer emergencies, including natural gas leak calls;
(F) drilling, production, processing, refining, and transporting natural gas for use as end-use fuels, feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, petrochemical products or use in electricity generation;
(G) propane gas dispatch and control rooms and emergency response and customer emergencies, including propane leak calls;
(H) propane gas service maintenance and restoration, including call centers;
(I) processing, refining, and transporting natural liquids, including propane gas, for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical
(J) propane gas storage, transmission, and distribution centers;

(ak) critical manufacturing such as the services of workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food, beverage and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, law enforcement and defenceservices;

(al) chemical services such as the services of –
(i) workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods, including hand sanitizers, food, beverage and food and beverage additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and paper products;
(ii) workers supporting the safe transportation of chemicals, including those supporting tank truck cleaning facilities and workers who manufacture packaging items;
(iii) workers supporting the production of protective cleaning and medical solutions, personal protective equipment, and packaging that prevents the contamination of food, water, medicine, among others essential products;
(iv) workers supporting the operation and maintenance of facilities, particularly those with high risk chemicals or sites that cannot be shut down, whose work cannot be done remotely and requires the presence of highly trained personnel to ensure safe operations, including plant contract workers who provide inspections; and
(v) workers who support the production and transportation of chlorine and alkali manufacturing, single-use plastics, and packaging that prevents the contamination or supports the continued manufacture of food, water, medicine, and other essential products, including glass container manufacturing;

(am) hotels, guest houses or econo-lodges;

(an) the seismic research unit of the University of the West Indies;

(ao) the services of construction workers and other workers engaged in the construction of health care facilities and construction workers working on the Curepe interchange;

(ap) the services of workers who are necessary to keep furnaces and kilns operating safely in manufacturing operations that are not captured as essential operation in this subregulation but who are needed to keep these furnaces and kilns operating for safety reasons; and

(aq) any trade, profession, business or service, activity or public gathering, authorised to be carried on by the Minister.

For the businesses specified above, only persons who are essential to the operations of the identified categories and cannot practically work from home will be allowed to attend at their places of work.

Operations of certain businesses

Closure of certain businesses

These regulations made it unlawful for anyone to operate a bar, cinema, club, common gaming house or betting shop, religious or ecclesiastical service or the amenity of seated dining at a restaurant.

The holder of a spirit retailer licence, wine licence, restaurant licence, spirit grocer’s licence or wine merchant’s licence under the Liquor Licences Act shall ensure that the premises relative to such a licence is closed for operation during the period. This does not apply to discount stores, markets and supermarkets.

Hours of operation of certain businesses

The regulations further stipulate designated certain hours for the operation of certain types of businesses:

(a) hardware stores including electrical and plumbing establishments shall only be open for sales to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 4.00pm from Monday to Saturday;

(b) subject to regulation 5(1), street vending of food and beverages, all retail food services, delivery and take away food services shall only be open for sales to the public until 8.00 p.m. every day;

(c) retail services, such as discount stores, markets, supermarkets, fruit stalls or shops, vegetable stalls or shops, bakeries and “parlours”, for the provision of food or other necessities of life shall only be open for sales to the public until 6:00 p.m. every day;

(d) wholesale stores for the provision of food, medicine or other necessities of life shall only be open until 4:00 p.m. every day; and

(e) pharmacies shall only be open for sales to the public until 8:00 p.m. every day.

Closure of air and sea ports

The regulations also stipulated that all air and sea ports except in relation to (a) air and sea cargo; and (b) air and sea transport between Trinidad and Tobago, shall remain closed to the arrival or departure of aircraft or ships or other vessels carrying passengers unless permitted by the Minister with responsibility for national security, from April 3 to April 30, 2020.

Requirement on private medical laboratories

The regulations also imposes certain requirements on private medical laboratories.

The regulations state at section 8 that notwithstanding the fact that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has not yet approved any private medical laboratory to do testing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), where a private medical laboratory does such testing on a person and the result of such testing is a positive result, the private medical laboratory and the person so tested, shall immediately report and forward the results to the Chief Medical Officer and the Regional Health Authority of the area in which the person to whom the results apply resides or works.

For the failure to comply with this regulation, the owner or operator of such private medical laboratory and the person so tested shall be deemed to commit an offence.

Quarantine and treatment of persons suffering from 2019-nCoV

The regulations also gives powers to the Chief Medical Officer with regard to persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. Regulation 8 provides as follows.

(1) Where the result of a test conducted by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) or by a private medical laboratory shows that a person is suffering from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Chief Medical Officer may give such directions as he thinks fit for–

(a) the restraint, segregation and isolation of that person or any other person who, by exposure to infection from that person, is likely to suffer from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV);
(b) the removal of a person referred to in paragraph (a) to a public hospital or a designated facility; or
(c) the curative treatment of a person referred to in paragraph (a).

(2) The Chief Medical Officer may give a direction under subregulation (1) where, in his discretion, he considers it necessary to do so–
(a) for the purposes of preventing or controlling the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus;
(b) in the interests of the person in relation to whom the direction is given; or
(c) in the interests of the public health system.

(3) Where the Chief Medical Officer gives a direction under subregulation (1), the person in relation to whom the direction is given shall be informed–
(a) of the reason for giving the direction;
(b) of the period during which the person is likely to be required to remain at a public hospital or a designated facility for observation, surveillance or curative treatment; and
(c) that it is an offence to fail to comply with the direction or to obstruct a medical practitioner, a nurse, a member of staff at a public hospital or a designated facility or a member of staff of a public or private ambulance service from carrying out the direction.

(4) A person who–
(a) fails to comply with a direction under subregulation (1); or
(b) obstructs a medical practitioner, a nurse, a member of staff at a public hospital or a designated facility or a member of staff of a public or private ambulance service from carrying out a direction under subregulation (1),
commits an offence under the regulations.

Offences under the regulations

Any person who breaches these regulations commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for a term of six months.

Quarantine Act

The Quarantine Act Chap. 28:05 gives the State further powers in the case of any danger to public heath or the spread of infection (from ships or aircraft or persons or things therein, arriving at any place).

Under the Act, the country’s Chief Medical Officer is designated as the Quarantine Authority, with the power to make certain rules (or to put into effect rules made by the Minister of Health) or to direct special measures to be taken during the continuance of an emergency.

Section 7 creates certain offences, and any person in breach of these is liable on conviction to a fine of $6,000 and to imprisonment for six months.

These offences include:

(a) lying to quarantine officials (sec 7(1)(a) “any person who refuses to answer or knowingly gives an untrue answer to any inquiry made under the authority of this Act, or intentionally withholds any information reasonably required of him by an officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act, or knowingly furnishes to any such officer or other person any information which is false”);

(b) breaching quarantine (sec 7(1)(b) “any person who refuses or wilfully omits to do any act which he is required to do by this Act, or refuses or wilfully omits to carry out any lawful order, instruction or condition made, given or imposed by any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act”); and

(c) resisting or attempting to bribe quarantine officials (sec 7(1)(c) “any person who assaults, resists, wilfully obstructs or intimidates any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act, or offers or gives a bribe to any officer or person in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or being such officer or person, demands, solicits or takes a bribe in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or otherwise obstructs the execution of this Act”).

Section 10 gives the police service the power to enforce the Act, using force where necessary and the powers of arrest without a warrant:

10(1) Every member of the Police Service shall enforce (using force if necessary) compliance with this Act and with any order, instruction or condition lawfully made, given or imposed by any officer or other person under the authority of this Act; and for such purpose any member of the Police Service may board any ship or aircraft and may enter any premises without a warrant.

10(2) Any member of the Police Service may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to have committed any offence against this Act.

This page was last updated on Monday May 11, 2020.

Any further rules or regulations will be further considered and the article will be revised, as necessary.

The featured image in this post was adapted from the Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell animated informational video on COVID-19, “The Coronavirus Explained & What You Should Do.” You can view this video on the Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell YouTube channel.

About The Author Jason Nathu

Jason Nathu is an Attorney-at-Law and Tutor attached to the Legal Aid Clinic at the Hugh Wooding Law School.