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

State of Emergency

On Saturday 15 May, 2021, a proclamation of public emergency was made by the President in Legal Notice No. 141/2021.

These were followed by Emergency Powers Regulations as outlined in Legal Notice No. 142/2021 dated 16 May 2021, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

These regulations include the restriction of several activities and a mandatory curfew between the house of 9.00pm to 5.00am.

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.

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. 1143/2021 dated 16 May 2021.

These regulations include provisions for the mandatory wearing of masks in vehicles, business places and public places as well as protocols for COVD-19 testing.

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 17 May 2021.

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, admitted to practice in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. He is currently a full-time Tutor at the Hugh Wooding Law School.