NEW FIXED PENALTIES INTRODUCED FOR NON-COMPLIANCE WITH COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

The Public and Environmental Health (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed in latest House of Assembly meeting held on Tuesday, 18 August 2020 in the Helena Jones Robinson Auditorium, Grand Turk which introduced fixed penalties for non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols.  

Effective 28 August 2020, a fixed penalty of $250 USD can be imposed for the following violations of the Regulations: 

  1. Failure to comply with curfew requirements 
  2. Failure to comply with restrictions on businesses 
  3. Breach of restriction on the maximum number of persons allowed inside a religious place of worship 
  4. Breach of restriction on maximum number of persons permitted to attend a funeral  
  5. Breach of restriction on maximum number of persons allowed to attend a social activity 
  6. Breach of restriction on maximum number of persons permitted to gather at a public beach 

According to Section 21 of the Public and Environmental Health (COVID-19) (Control Measures) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 entitled “Fixed Penalty: 

“a police officer may issue to the person a ticket, in the form set out in the Schedule 1 and, if the person desires to plead guilty to the offence alleged, he may produce such ticket to the Clerk to the Magistrate’s Court at the place, and on or before the date and time therein specified, not being more than twenty-eight days from the date or receipt of the said ticket, and may pay the fine prescribed in Schedule 2 into court. 

(2) If the person desires to plead not guilty to the offence alleged or to request the court to mitigate the fine, the said ticket shall operate as a summons to the person to appear before the court at the date and time therein specified so that, in default of payment of the fine or so making appearance before the court, the person shall be treated as if the fine had been imposed after conviction. 

Further amendments to the Public and Environmental Health (COVID-19) (Control Measures) Regulations 2020 were made to assist in the prevention and control of the spread of COVID-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Included in those amendments were:  

  1. Officers of the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies and security guards are now considered essential workers; 
  2. Domestic Travel— for the purpose of continuing to one’s destination upon arrival in the Islands and by the Prison staff/prisoners, the Police, and others who travel as part of their official duties are now recognised as essential travel; 
  3. The mandatory wearing of masks or face coverings is now a ticketable offence. 

The Premier Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson commenting on the amendments to the regulations stated, “This latest surge in cases are concerningI am therefore appealing to the public to be responsible in how they conduct themselves, being cognizant of the health protocols as mandated by the regulations and with particular emphasis on wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and avoiding congregating. 

Various warnings have been published in the public domain to adhere to the health protocols and the Ministry of Health and the Police continue to received reports of non-compliance. In order to be effective in controlling the spread of the virus we need to adopt a zero tolerance approach to those who continue to blatantly breach the Regulations set out for the protection of the public. 

The Turks and Caicos Islands Government led by the Ministry of Health with the assistance of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force will continue to take every measure to ensure that we reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent further outbreaks.”  

The Ministry of Health’s compliance officers working along with the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force are responsible for the enforcement of all COVID-19 health requirements and protocols. A public health officer, a police officer or an officer of the relevant government department may visit any business, premises or public place to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations and any guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and can issue a ticket, order the immediate closure of a business or premises; or order the dispersal of persons at that business or premises or at any public place. 

Any person who is found to be in breach of these regulations commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $1,000 or to a term of imprisonment for three months, or to both.