On the 17th of February 2021, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (‘T&T’) administered its first COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers. While the path for vaccine sourcing and rollout is being finalised locally, internationally various vaccines have proven effective at the trial stage, providing much needed reprieve in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom that have been ravaged by the pandemic. Though daily deaths and cases have decreased globally, the virus still has stranglehold on many countries, continuing to curtail “normal” life. T&T has enjoyed comparative success in controlling the virus. For the time being, spread of new variants has been kept at bay, with daily case numbers generally remaining in single digits for much of 2021. Since September 2020, regulations have been eased to an extent, albeit with considerable prudence. Beaches, gyms, cinemas and restaurants have all been re-opened. The most notable change of 2021 is that primary, secondary and tertiary schools are now permitted to have in-person classes for select groups of students. With the growing sense of normalcy and relatively low rate of community transmission, it is important to ignore the sense of complacency that may begin to creep in that may cause us to ignore or even forget the existing regulations that remain in effect. The following summarises the measures that have been implemented by the Government of T&T and that are currently in force.
Last updated: 4th March 2021
The primary measures and restrictions currently in force in T&T are, as of 4th March, 2021, consolidated in The Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 5) Regulations 2021 (the ‘Regulations’). The Regulations reflect the most up-to-date measures in force until 4th April, 2021.
RESTRICTED ACTIVITIES/ BUSINESSES
The Regulations impose a mandatory closing hour of 10:00 pm every day on retail business establishments, unless otherwise permitted by the Minister. 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 guidelines for Small and Large businesses issued by the Ministry of Health.
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 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 a vehicle||$1,000.00|
|Failure to ensure a child wears a mask in a 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 continue to allow bars to open only between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 pm, but they are still unable to allow and provide for the consumption of alcoholic drinks at the premises of the bar, effectively limiting their operations.
Any religious or ecclesiastical services or other religious gatherings are broadly permitted so long as the gathering of persons does not exceed fifty per cent (50%) of the allowed capacity of the relevant place. Services included are religious meetings, services, funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms or such other religious gatherings.
The Regulations allow the operation of casinos and gaming houses or betting offices at fifty per cent (50%) capacity. They are not permitted to serve alcohol and shall only be open to the public from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm unless permitted otherwise by the Minister.
Cinemas and theatres can operate at a maximum of fifty per cent (50%) capacity from the hours of 8:00 am to 10:00 pm unless permitted otherwise by the Minister. The service of food and beverage is permitted but not the provision of alcohol.
SEATED DINING / FOOD SERVICES
A restaurant or food court can provide fifty per cent (50%) dine in-services to customers in groups not exceeding ten (10) persons. However, provision of alcohol with in-service dining is still prohibited. Notably, the roadside consumption of any product provided by street vendors selling food or drink is also still prohibited.
SPORTING ACTIVITIES / GYMS
Gyms and fitness centres are permitted to operate at fifty per cent (50%) capacity of their relevant buildings. Gyms can open at 5:00 am but they have the same closing time of 10:00 pm as other establishments. Group contact sports are prohibited whereas team sports require the permission of the Minister. However, recreational team sports conducted outside of a building with no more than twenty-two (22) persons may be permitted, while athletic teams engaged at a national or international level, can train and participate in their relevant sports without permission or restriction.
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 ten (10) persons unless there is reasonable justification.
While visiting beaches have been allowed since 26th October 2020, it is noteworthy to mention that persons are not allowed to visit any river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water or any public pool for recreational purposes.
Access to beaches by the public is permitted only from the hours of 6:00am to 6:00pm on any day.
The term “raft-up” has been defined in the regulations as the roping together of several small vessels to form a raft-like structure. Raft-up boat meetings for recreational use remain prohibited.
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.
Tours of the Buccoo Reef, Speyside or the Caroni Bird Sanctuary are permitted to operate at fifty (50%) per cent of the ordinary capacity of the tour.
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.
Disclaimer: This Document Provides General Guidance Only And Nothing In This Document Constitutes Legal Advice. Should You Require Specific Assistance, Please Contact Your Attorney-At-Law.
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