A police officer supervises a line of shoppers outside RAMS supermarket along the Bay Road in Basseterre, St.Kitts in April 2020 during a zone shopping day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic (Spokesman Snap)

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 24th July 2020)-In St.Kitts-Nevis, could you be stopped by police in public places and get a ticket for not wearing a face mask to comply with that type of safeguard regulation response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

The answer is “maybe” since such has become a topic of discussion for the COVID-19 National Task Force as expressed by Chairman of that committee Abdias Samuel in a presentation at the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing on Friday 17th July 2020.

“We keep getting a lot of complaints of persons not being compliant and the task force would have met and some of the recommendations going forward in order for us to get some compliance is to ( 1) host a number of consultation meetings with stakeholders and the general public via various means. (2) We also looked at the potential of making it a ticketable offence whereby persons would basically have to pay a ticket; they would be ticketed for not wearing a mask.”

Samuel continued: “We have seen how some CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leaders have echoed their sentiments of moving from having to take you to court and empowering the police officers to be able to give you a ticket. When we look at the cost of these tickets. At present, if taken to court you can pay anyway up to $5000 or six months in prison or you can actually be fined both which is the six months and still pay the $5000.”

“We are saying maybe. We looked at some prices and costs of these ticketable offences whereby if you don’t pay, the ticket itself can become an automatic summons after 10 days. These are some of the recommendations that have come forward in our discussions as a task force and the reason for this is again for us to be able to have persons become compliant to these regulations which are going to help us remain safe against the impact of this virus,” he added.

Samuel, in reference to good hygiene practices including hand washing, underlined that “the non-pharmaceutical measures are there. We are basically highlighting and emphasizing for persons to be able to be compliant.”

The COVID-19 National Task Force top official also called on all residents to cooperate in partaking in safeguard measures as he reflected on the level of response before the lockdown periods.

“We need your cooperation. Before we went into the lockdowns, we had that zeal, we had that connection with you the general public, business sector, social partners and the support was such that everybody went into the lockdowns unified. However, the challenge is that we have to reopen in a very responsible manner which is going to take time and it seems that we have run out of patience. We have to be patient with the system. There are assessments being done in the best interest of the general public and this is done just to safeguard you. Therefore, be patient with the system.”

Police have arrested individuals for breaching Section 15 of the Statutory Rules and Order No. 15 of 2020 which instructs that “a person shall wear a face mask, covering their nose and mouth, when in a public place, once a period of emergency is declared in relation to COVID-19.”

At present, there are two active COVID-19 cases in St.Kitts-Nevis; one of whom is a health care provider.