ON SATURDAY, the Prime Minister promised a harder line on infractions to the regulations governing covid19 restrictions.
He had been pushed to that decision by a week of debate over a private party held at Bayside Towers which attracted more than 20 attendees.
There was concern that the police were applying the rules differently to so-called “zesser” parties than they were to events held at more upscale locations.
Dr Rowley made it clear that he expected the law to be applied to “every person, regardless of race, colour, creed or class or social standing.”
That there are special regulations governing behaviour is regrettable, but apparently necessary.
Any gathering of people in TT under covid19 is a risk, not only to the participants in an ill-advised party but to their families and friends. It is careless, thoughtless and dangerous.
The scope of the law is still being tested, most recently in a case heard by High Court Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh who reviewed two constitutional claims challenging the regulations.
Justice Boodoosingh considered criminal penalties for offences under the regulations inappropriate without parliamentary scrutiny, but upheld the core rationale for the legislation backing the guidelines.
There are challenges facing the police in the execution of their duties, and overreach and abuse are concerns that police management should address through clearer guidelines for engagement with the public.
One example of troubling police overreach is a decision by officers in San Fernando to ticket homeless people for not wearing masks. That is a problem that should be approached more humanely, without need for a $1,000 fine imposed on people who do not have $1,000 or even a fixed address.
Meanwhile, from the public response of the Commissioner of Police yesterday to the PM’s address it is clear that there is also need for private talks among the authorities on what the rules are and how they are to be applied.
Then these need to be communicated, ad nauseam and in pellucidly clear language, to the public.
But while there is no question that the balance between civil liberties and health restrictions in a time of pandemic must be monitored, TT is in a situation unprecedented in our lifetimes, and the uncommon situation demands extraordinary responses.
In one week, several cases were announced at the Office of the President, and Sea Lots mourned the passing of businessman Cedric Burke to the virus.
Covid19 is an equal-opportunity virus, an invisible predator on all. A stubborn insistence on imagined immunity or invulnerability is misplaced.
The country is in a far worse place than it was just two months ago and exponential spread is a consequence of ignoring the restrictions.
Again, more clarity and insistence on simple rules, regularly repeated, are needed to win the public buy-in and pervasive understanding so desperately needed at this time.