Court cautious over coronavirus

Hall of Justice, Port of Spain
Hall of Justice, Port of Spain

A Chinese woman who arrived in Trinidad on Saturday from China was not allowed to attend court on Wednesday as a precaution against the novel Wuhan coronavirus.

There was no appearance of Yan Fang Hong when her matter was called before Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, where she was expected to attend to surrender her passport.

The judge explained the reason for her absence, saying it was because of the information in the public domain regarding the “notorious” coronavirus outbreak in China.

He said, according to information provided to the court, she arrived in TT on February 1.

St Clair-Douglas said the court’s registrar was notified of the woman’s travels and was told that she ought not to go into the courtroom.

He explained that the precaution was taken because of the woman’s “physical contact” she would have had in China.

This instruction, he said, was also told to Fang Hong and her attorneys.

“The court hopes to have the guidance of those medically trained on the approach the courts should take,” St Clair-Douglas said, as he adjourned the matter to March 2.

Fang Hong, 47, was allowed to continue on her bail. She is charged with allegedly trying to bribe a police officer during his routine visit to a casino in Princes Town on April 5, 2007.

It is alleged that the casino had extra gambling machines, contrary to what was stipulated by law, and Fang Hong offered $10,000 to the policeman as an inducement to forego prosecution.

The order for her to surrender her passport was made after she missed a court date at the San Fernando High Court and a warrant for her arrest was issued by the judge. When she appeared in December, the order for the surrender was made but she asked to be allowed to visit her daughter in Guangdong Province, China, for the holidays. Her request was allowed and the matter was adjourned to Wednesday.

Newsday understands that the woman travelled from China and arrived in New York on January 31. She was screened but not quarantined as she showed no signs of illness.

She boarded a Caribbean Airlines flight to Trinidad and arrived on February 1, where she was scanned by port health workers at the Piarco airport.

Newsday was told that workers at Piarco had no concerns and she was allowed to leave. Newsday also understands that her attorneys were in constant contact with immigration officials in the event she was refused entry.

Sources said immigration staff only received instructions on how to treat with passengers and the travel restrictions on February 3.

Newsday was told the woman was allowed entry until January 13, 2025 and is a resident of TT.

According to instructions issued by the chief immigration officer (CIO) to all immigration officers, all passengers must complete the passenger declaration form and list all countries visited in the last six weeks.

Passengers cannot be flagged only on the basis of nationality, but by actual travel history verified by a thorough examination of each passport.

Immigration officers were also instructed that all passengers who originated, or travelled through China, within 14 days must be referred to port health for medical screening and assessment.

Any non national travelling through, or from, China, who the authorities deem to be a health risk, are to be denied entry and returned to the last port of embarkation on the next immediate flight to that country.

“Citizens and permanent residents...are to be admitted following clearance from the port health,” according to the staff instruction, signed by CIO Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews.

Officers were also advised to continue to be alert for notices and information from the Health Ministry on the coronavirus and take the necessary precautions to safeguard their health both on and off duty.

On January 30, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a global health emergency because of the rise in the number of cases outside of China.


"Court cautious over coronavirus"

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