To date, over half a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally. Developed and advanced countries, such as the United Kingdom and Israel, have been ahead of the curve in their efforts to manage the pandemic and achieve normalcy, whereas the progress of developing and emerging countries has not been as promising. After much anticipation, the arrival of 33,600 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, courtesy the COVAX Facility, marked the commencement of Trinidad and Tobago’s vaccine rollout.
Amid the strides being made to vaccinate the population, Trinidad and Tobago has experienced an unfortunate resurgence in Covid-19 cases, which comes after a period of relative stability. As an initial response to curb the spike in Covid-19 cases, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago implemented measured restrictions by closing beaches to the public (with certain exceptions), prohibiting in-house dining, and reducing public gatherings from ten (10) persons to five (5) persons. However, as cases have continued to significantly increase unabated (with the country reporting 328 new cases, its highest one day increase), stricter measures have been deemed necessary, leaving many with a sense of déjà vu. The following summarises the measures that have been implemented by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and which are currently in force.
Last updated: 4th May 2021
The primary measures and restrictions currently in force in Trinidad and Tobago are, as of 4th May 2021, consolidated in The Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 12) Regulations 2021 (the ‘Regulations’). The Regulations reflect the most up-to-date measures which are intended to be in force until 23rd May, 2021.
OVERVIEW – RESTRICTED ACTIVITIES/ BUSINESSES
All retail establishments, whether located at malls, strip malls and shopping plazas or otherwise, are restricted from opening, with the exception of certain permitted businesses that do not fall within the scope of the restriction, which can be open until 8:00 pm every day, unless otherwise permitted by the Minister (see below for more information).
Further, the operation of restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centres, clubs, casinos and cinemas, spas, hairdressers, nail and beauty technicians are prohibited.
Religious or ecclesiastical activities are generally prohibited save for certain exceptional circumstances and provided they are performed in accordance with the regulations.
Small and large businesses that are in operation are continued to require to comply with the guidelines for Small and Large businesses issued by the Ministry of Health.
All retails establishments are now closed to the public, regardless of the opening hours, save for certain exceptional businesses which are permitted to operate. Notably, while the term “retail establishments” is not defined in the Regulations, it ought to be interpreted in light of the object and purpose of the Regulations which is aimed at restricting the physical gathering of persons in order to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. As such, it is anticipated that retail that is conducted online or virtually is unlikely to be captured by the restrictions in Regulations.
The following are some of the businesses which are permitted to operate notwithstanding the restrictions:
- Banks, financial institutions, non-banks and remittance facilities;
- Insurance companies and brokers;
- Hardware stores including plumbing establishments and retail electrical stores;
- Retail health services such as pharmacies and medical offices;
- Supermarkets, groceries, markets, green grocers, bakeries, poultry depots, fish/fruit stalls or shops and retail membership discount stores (provided that not more than 50% of the establishment’s ordinary retail capacity is surpassed);
- Retail energy services such as IT and OT Technology for Emergency Management Systems, cybersecurity risk management and back-up data technology;
- Petroleum stations and convenience marts and companies that provide services to the oil and gas sector; and
- Establishments that support retail, sale and services in:
- transportation, postal and shipping services;
- food production and agricultural production;
- energy services and chemical services sector;
- the construction sector; and
- the aviation and maritime sector.
A full list of the exceptional businesses can be found in Regulation 4(7) of the Regulations.
The closing hours of these exceptional businesses are restricted to 8:00 pm every day, unless permitted by the Minister of Health.
RESTAURANTS, STREET VENDING and BARS
The Regulations continue to prohibit the operation of restaurants and bars in its entirety. Restaurants are not allowed to open whether for in-house dining or to provide take-away services. Bars are subject to similar restrictions in which both the sale and consumption of alcohol at the premises are prohibited.
The Regulations now prohibit the roadside sale, or offer for sale of any food or drink by street vendors.
Religious and ecclesiastical organisations may conduct religious meetings or services either by:
- Electronic means; or
- For the purposes of recording or live streaming of the religious activity,
Where the gathering of persons at any place used for that purpose does not exceed five (5) persons.
Religious activities in respect of funerals and weddings may be conducted only if the number of persons that is in attendance does not exceed ten (10) persons. This extends to burial, cremation and wedding receptions.
SPORTING ACTIVITIES / GYMS
Gyms and fitness centres are to remain closed. Group contact sports are prohibited whereas team sports require the approval of the Minister. Outdoor recreational team sports are not permitted, while athletic or sporting teams, approved by the Minister, engaged at a national or international level, can train and participate in their relevant sports without permission or restriction.
CLUBS, CASINOS, CINEMAS, SPAS AND OTHER SIMILAR ACTIVITIES
Clubs, casinos and cinemas, spas, hairdressers, nail and beauty technicians are fully prohibited from operation.
Public or private pre-school, early childhood education centres and day-cares are prohibited from operating in any capacity, be it for the care or education of young children.
However, primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary institutions and other post-secondary institutions may provide classes in person to certain groups where practicable. Practical, laboratory and other classes which are unsuitable for electronic means may be conducted in person.
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 (75%) of the number of passengers it is licensed to carry.
- For every other type of motor vehicle, no more than sixty-five percent (65%) of the number of passengers it is licensed to carry.
The Regulations restrict the number of persons gathered in a public place to five (5) persons unless there is reasonable justification.
Persons are not allowed to visit any river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water or any public pool, mud volcano or other similar site for recreational purposes.
Access to beaches by the public is also prohibited unless otherwise authorised by the Minister.
Raft-up boat meetings for recreational use remain prohibited. The term “raft-up” has been defined in the regulations as the roping together of several small vessels to form a raft-like structure.
There remains a restriction in place on the operation of water parks, amusement parks, dancehalls, party boats or clubs and public parties or public fetes.
Boat tours, including of the Buccoo Reef, Speyside or the Caroni Bird Sanctuary are also prohibited.
The Regulations continue to 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, for the purpose of receiving services.
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 to enter or remain 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 a vehicle
|Failure to ensure a child wears a mask in a vehicle
|Failure to wear a mask in public
|Failure to ensure a child wears a mask in public
Under the Regulations, the Minister of Health may direct persons to self-quarantine which is a departure from the state quarantine mandated previously. Non-compliance with the directions makes one liable to a $250,000 fine and imprisonment for a term of six (6) months.