02 Sep COVID-19 Update: Re-implementation of Restrictions
During the first and second quarters of 2020, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago experienced relative success in its attempt to “flatten the curve” by minimising the spread of Covid-19 within the country. The implementation of measures of varying degrees at critical junctures allowed the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (‘GoRTT’) to facilitate the gradual lifting of restrictions. However, like many other countries around the world, there has been a recent resurgence in the number of Covid-19 positive cases. In a renewed attempt to curb the increase which has escalated to community spread, the GoRTT made a decision to reimpose certain restrictions on businesses such as bars, cinemas, clubs, seated dining at establishments, public parties or fetes, gyms, religious services, water parks and amusement parks, and public transportation, while also legislating for the mandatory use of face masks. The following summarises the measures that have been implemented by the GoRTT, and that are currently in force.
Last updated: 02 September 2020
The primary measures and restrictions currently in force in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are, as of 02 September 2020, consolidated in the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 27) Regulations 2020 (‘Regulation No. 27’ or the ‘regulations’). The regulations reflect the most current measures in force.
RESTRICTED ACTIVITIES/ BUSINESSES
Regulation No. 27 imposes a mandatory closing hour of 10:00 pm every day on retail business establishments, unless permitted otherwise. Except where specifically stated, there are no restrictions on the time that retail business establishments may open.
Small and large businesses that are in operation are required to comply with the Reopening Guidelines for Businesses, Facilities and Institutions issued by the Ministry of Health.
The most recent regulations provide for the mandatory use of face masks, face shields or face coverings (‘face masks’) specifically in the following circumstances, unless there is a reasonable excuse:
- While travelling in a vehicle or vessel (‘vehicle’); and
- While in a public space.
The mandatory use of a face mask in a vehicle does not apply in the following circumstances:
- To a child who is under the age of eight;
- If the person is in the vehicle alone; or
- If the person is allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation in which they are alone.
A reasonable excuse is defined to include the following circumstances:
- The person cannot put on, wear or remove a face mask because of any physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, or without severe distress.
- The person is traveling with or providing assistance to another person, where such person relies on lip reading to communicate.
- The person removes the face mask to avoid harm or injury or the risk of such harm or injury, to himself or others.
- The person is traveling to avoid injury or to escape a risk of harm, and does not have a face mask.
- It is reasonably necessary for the person to eat or drink and such activity requires the removal of the face mask.
- The person has to take medication.
- A request is made to remove the face mask temporarily for security and identification purposes, if necessary to receive service.
The owner or operator of a business which provides goods or services to the public is required to ensure that a member of the public is not permitted entry to, or remains within any enclosed space within the premises unless the person is wearing a face mask.
The obligation on an owner or operator of a business does not apply in the following circumstances:
- To a child who is under the age of eight;
- To employees and agents of the person responsible for the business within an area that is designated for them, or within or behind a physical barrier, where the public has no access. However, the employee must wear a face mask when working in an enclosed public space.
NB: The face mask, face shield or face covering is required to cover the person’s mouth, nose and chin.
Failure to wear a face mask as prescribed above, without a reasonable excuse, will result in either of the following penalties:
|Failure to wear a mask in vehicle||$1,000.00|
|Failure to ensure a child wears a mask in vehicle||$1,000.00|
|Failure to wear a mask in public||$1,000.00|
|Failure to ensure a child wears a mask in public||$1,000.00|
The regulations allow bars to open only between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 pm, but they are unable to allow and provide for the consumption of food or drinks at the premises of the bar.
Generally, the conduct of religious or ecclesiastical services or other religious gatherings are currently prohibited. Notwithstanding the general position, the following services* may be held:
- Funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms or other religious gatherings of a similar nature; and
- Religious meetings or services that are conducted by electronic means, or for the purposes of recording or live streaming.
*In such services, the number of persons allowed to be present is limited to ten. The organisations having conduct of the exceptional services are required to comply with the guidelines for Places of Worship issued by the Ministry of Health.
The regulations now prohibit the operation of casinos and gaming houses or betting offices.
Cinemas and theatres are no longer allowed to open for business.
SEATED DINING / FOOD SERVICES
While food establishments including restaurants, food courts, bars or street vendors may provide take-away service to its customers, the amenity of seated dining and the roadside consumption of any product provided by street vendors selling food or drink are now prohibited.
SPORTING ACTIVITIES / GYMS
The regulations now prohibit the operation of gyms and fitness centres, while group contact sports and any team sports are prohibited. As it relates to team sports, the approval of the Minister of Health may be obtained in order to participate.
The number of passengers permitted to be carried via public transport is restricted to the following:
- For a motor car, no more than seventy-five percent of the number of passengers it is licensed to carry; or
- For every other type of motor vehicle, no more than sixty-five percent of the number of passengers it is licensed to carry.
The regulations once more restrict the number of persons permitted at public gatherings to five.
Notably, there continues to be restrictions on educational establishments, public parties or public fetes, clubs and party boats. Further, until 12 September 2020, a person shall not: (i) be at a public place where the number of persons at any time exceeds five; and (ii) participate in any group contact sport, or teams sport except with the approval of the Minister of Health.
The previous restriction on any person being found at any beach, river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water has been reimposed. The restriction now also extends to waters around any island off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago, any public pool for recreational purposes, and any raft-up boat meetings for recreational use. The term “raft-up” has been defined in the regulations as the roping together of a number of small vessels to form a raft-like structure.
Due to the recent surge in the number of Covid-19 positive cases, it is difficult to predict with certainty the level of restriction that may be implemented by the GoRTT. As a result, it is critical for citizens to remain vigilant of the restrictions in place at any given time.