Trinidad: How to deal with mask resisters – ‘Throw them in jail?’

Trinidad: How to deal with mask resisters – ‘Throw them in jail?’
A person wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 disease walks in Vilanova i la Geltru on March 30, 2020. - Spain confirmed another 812 deaths in 24 hours from the coronavirus today, a slight decline on the previous day's toll, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,340. The country, which has the world's second most deadly outbreak after Italy, recorded 838 deaths from the pandemic yesterday, its third straight daily record for coronavirus deaths. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP) (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh plans to have a meeting with heads of the maxi taxi and taxi associations over the wearing of masks.

Deyalsingh said he had noticed that some of these drivers have not been complying with the health measures in place in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. He spoke to some of them on this issue and said he got “a whole range of reasons.”

Speaking during this morning’s health ministry’s press conference Deyalsingh added, “So what I have asked my colleague the Minister of Works and Transport to do, is to set up a meeting with myself, possibly the CMO, and the heads of associations – of the maxi taxi associations, the taxi associations – because I am very concerned about the lives of our taxi operators because by the nature of their work, the nature of their job they need to understand that wearing a mask, especially when you are inside your maxi taxi or your taxi, you don’t know who you are picking up, it is very important for these categories of people, taxi operators to wear a masks.”

He said, “It not only protects them, it protects their families when they go home on afternoons. So I’m concerned about small and medium sized retail and I’m very, very concerned about public transport.”

He said he was not chiding but “having a conversation with strong advice” to these two groups “who have a very serious responsibility now in helping the government continue this world class effort.”

Deyalsingh earlier said that the banks and larger companies that have a strong sense of corporate identity and corporate responsibility, have been “leading from the front” with the following of health protocols. He also said owners of malls he visited have provided hand sanitizer at entrances and exits and employees in these malls have been wearing masks.

He said, “The corporate response was good but when you walk into the single owner operated stores that is where I think we need to have a serious conversation.” Deyalsingh said even though some of the individual, independent single owner stores have signs with no masks, no service, customers are inside without masks. “Yes you have the policy, yes you have the sign but it’s not being implemented inside the store … It’s good to have the policy but then you have to live it and encourage the medium and smaller entities to follow corporate Trinidad and Tobago and implement it across the board.”

He said that people liming on Brian Lara promenade to those in rural areas have also not been wearing masks. “Some pockets of the population are hearing the call but we have to work even harder with other parts of the population … I just want to remind people that the proper wearing of a mask, covering your nose and our mouth, is absolutely crucial … Let us be a shining light for the rest of the world that Trinidad and Tobago continues to do a world class job and wearing a mask in public is an absolute crucial part of that.”

He added that the Attorney General advised that it is “a legislative and implementation nightmare” to charge people for not wearing masks. “You charge them, what do you do with them? Throw them in jail? It’s just a legislative nightmare so that is why we are going the route of very strong moral suasion and that is why we keep saying retail shop owners, the same way you can deny service and you have your signs up saying, no short sleeve, no bareback, no slippers, you have the right to deny service to someone without a mask.”

He also said those who are unable to wear masks for medical reasons including asthma, bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can instead wear face shields. He showed three shields during the press conference – one made by the University of the West Indies, another from a resident in Arima and the third made by his secretary on her sewing machine at home. Deyalsingh said that such face shields are also being sold.


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