The police will be brought in to ensure public compliance with quarantine restrictions imposed by the government as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roshan Parasram, said they were at the "tipping point" with the irresponsibility displayed by some citizens.
Parasram was speaking Wednesday at the now regular morning media briefing by the Ministry of Health at its Park Street headquarters in Port of Spain. Parasram along with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, and Stuart Young, Minister of National Security spoke at the session, each of them re-reinforcing the threat non-compliance by errant people posed to the rest of the population.
Parasram said he was aware of 20,000 people who entered TT in the past 14 days and said while most of these people have heeded the government's warnings and remained at home, only a small portion of this figure was required to spread the disease.
He said a list of names of the travellers was compiled by an inter-Ministerial committee and sent to the police and defence force for surveillance.
Newsday spoke to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith who said there were adequate human and technological resources in place to ensure travellers adhered to the law and did not endanger others by potentially spreading the virus.
Referring to a recent incident in which a home invasion in Goodwood Park was thwarted by the quick response of police, Griffith said there was a cohesive structure between the National Operation Fusion Centre and ground forces in tackling criminals, including those who may attempt to breach their quarantine.
"Because of the use of the National Operations Fusion Centre there will be a sharing of information. There will be databasing of the list of people who landed within the last few weeks. There would be a database to ensure that all people adhere to their responsibilities, it is hoped that all people who entered TT would be responsible and it would not reach to the police to get involved to enforce what should be common sense.
"We will work with the Immigration Department, the Ministry of National Security, so information will be passed and we will conduct our investigations and we definitely have the resources available, so this will be more on the intelligence-gathering arm of the police service to ensure people adhere to their responsibilities."
Added to these capabilities, Griffith also said there was the operational branch of the police which would work in better securing TT over the next few months to deter criminals who may try and use the nationwide lockdown as an opportunity to commit crimes.
He said there was in addition to the 999 and 482-GARY(4279) hotlines used to report crimes, there was also the 555 hotline which was established specifically for information gathering relating to breaches in the self-isolation guidelines put forward by the government.
"We want the public to give us information if they are aware of any persons who is not adhering to their responsibilities and they landed recently but are still out in the public which can affect the health of others.
"Also if they (the public) has knowledge or video footage to show that certain people are not adhering to the health regulations laws that are enacted and also if people are looking questionable in certain locations."
Griffith said while the 999 hotline was to be used for more immediate emergency situations, the 555 hotline was to be used more for concerns relating to the spread of the coronavirus in relation to gatherings and the opening of bars and other establishments which were restricted by the government.
During the press conference, Parasram said the government could impose quarantine in a facility if required. This can include a hospital or another facility of the government's choice.
Under Section 10 of the Quarantine Act the police are authorised to use force when necessary and can arrest without warrant anyone who may have violated the act.
In Part VIII of the Act, no one is allowed to leave their designated isolation area except with the general or special permission of a Quarantine Authority or Health Officer.
People under surveillance are also required to notify their health officer beforehand if they intend to visit an area outside of their quarantine zone.