Parliamentarians, including the Opposition, on Friday voted to add cinemas to the list of restricted businesses as part of covid19 measures.
The Miscellaneous Provisions (2019 Novel Corona Virus [2019-nCoV]) Bill was piloted by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi at an extraordinary sitting of the House.
"Because the Government has been monitoring the public's acceptance of suasion, and because the public has been ignoring the suasion and congregating nonetheless, the government is compelled, in the interest of the citizens of this country, to take the legislative action which is available to us."
The Prime Minister announced the restrictions on bars after a special Cabinet meeting on Monday.
Under the new law, passed on Friday morning in the House of Representatives, the fines for bars and clubs that breach the restrictions were increased. The bill also amends other legislation.
Documents issued by the Licensing Division which are about to expire will now be valid until August 31, 2020. This applies to driving permits, taxi driver badges, inspection certificates and others. This is to help keep people from congregating at licensing offices to renew their documents.
There was also an amnesty for documents under the Companies Act, and the companies, land and birth and death registries for the period March 27-July 31, as well as an extension for bills of sale and licences under the Licensing Committee including licences for pawnbrokers, metal, registration of clubs, and for liquor.
Al-Rawi pointed out the fine for breaching the public health ordinance, which dates back to 1917, was $480 and six months' imprisonment. The new legislation will increase the fine to $50,000 while the imprisonment period remains unchanged.
"These are not normal times. It is true that a vast amount of difficulty will be applied to our population. All of us."
He said TT was not an economy that can survive a state of emergency (which has been imposed in other covid19-hit countries), and implementing curfews would affect the ability of people to go to work and return home. He added that this economy was not like the US where they can print cash and there is no requirement for reserves.
The bill was passed with all 37 members voting for it. The restrictions will be in effect until April 20.
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal in his contribution recalled that while reading a legal notice Thursday it was revoked and the dates changed for the restriction from July 31 to April 20.
"Clearly their minds must still be open to criticism because it means that because we are trying to move at breakneck speed you can still overlook something because of the speed we have to move with."
Al-Rawi in his wind-up said that "normalcy" will have to be a fluid concept and in emergency measures Government may not get it right immediately.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her response said she was in support of the measures taken at this time and constrained activities was needed to fight the "dreaded virus", She reiterated that moral suasion to keep people from congregating was not enough and she welcomed legislation to restrain human activities.
She asked why cinemas had not been included and Al-Rawi in his wrapping up said that the Prime Minister instructed him on Monday to include cinemas. MovieTowne, CinemaOne (IMAX, Gemstone) and Caribbean Cinemas have all previously announced that their cinemas would be closed in accordance with covid19 restrictions.