Health Minister Terrence Dyalsingh is interviewed by members of the media after the od turning ceremony for the Ministry of Health Headquarters and Queen’s Park Savannah East, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Anna-Lisa Paul

As citizens continue to ignore public health regulations not to congregate, government officials say they have been left with no choice but to use the law to compel people to adhere to the regulations.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said while they are still using moral suasion as the first means of reaching people, recent behaviours had necessitated the introduction of stricter means as appeals were falling on deaf ears in some quarters.

Responding to questions following yesterday’s sod-turning ceremony for the Ministry of Health’s headquarters, Queen’s Park East, Port-of-Spain, Deyalsingh said, “I will rely for the time being on moral suasion.”

However, he warned, “We are going to work with the police hand-in-hand because under the Public Health Ordinance, Public Health Inspectors and I have just had that conversation with the CMO…Public Health Inspectors can go into any gathering whether it is public or private and if they feel there is an imminent danger, they can ask for that crowd to be dispersed.”

He said he met with the Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram and the ministry’s legal department yesterday to discuss putting a task force in place.

“The Public Health Inspectors working with the police to go onto private properties…unfortunately, this is what it has come to…under the Public Health Ordinance which speaks to an imminent threat and if we feel there is an imminent threat, we can take action and we will take action because apparently that is the only thing some people will respond to.”

Deyalsingh said he has also spoken to National Security Minister Stuart Young on how existing legislation can be used to disperse people in private settings.

Although he claimed to have read in the media that government officials had been in attendance at a wedding in Valsayn on the weekend which boasted several hundred guests, Deyalsingh denied knowing this for sure.

He, however, confirmed the wedding host had approached him for advice before hosting the event.

Deyalsingh went on the record as he claimed, “I advised that person not to do what he did because he came to me for advice. I know the person. I advised him not to do it and right now, there is a wedding being planned by another resident in Valsayn. I will say it, he is planning a wedding for December 12 for 300 people. People just don’t get it.”

Cautioning that it would only take one person to spread the COVID-19 virus and risk infecting hundreds due to inconsiderate actions, Deyalsingh also referred to Sunday’s ‘zesser’ party in Caroni as he said, “Right now, I have hospital space for them.”

He joked, “So the guests from the wedding and the people in the zesser party could make friends on the ward. We will make sure they exchange names and phone numbers and become bosom buddies on the ward, but if they find themselves in the ICU, then they can’t talk and become friends…but they could become friends in Couva, Caura or Pointe-a-Pierre. I will make sure they become friends.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley urged people not to play Russian Roulette with their lives.

“I must say I am amazed that some people in our national population could be so cavalier and irresponsible and selfish that after January to November, and being told of how dangerous this thing is and why we need to be going through what we are going through to evade its worst fangs, all these people want to do is to party.”

He reiterated, “We are not immune to what is happening to other people around the world. This virus is no respecter of gender, of race, of class, or economic standing. Do not play Russian Roulette with it because if a group of people, whether 200 or 100 in a wedding in Valsayn or wherever else…if you all do that and you infect a significant number of people in this country and those infected people mathematically multiply and over a short space of time, we get a large number of sick people in this country…there is one outcome to that and so far, we have avoided that outcome.”