One day after the TT Safe Zone system took effect on October 11, an infraction has been reported to the T&T Police Service (TTPS) for investigation and a probe was launched into an unvaccinated man who it was believed went to a cinema, a claim he later denied.
The Ministry of Health has said that public health inspectors carrying out routine exercises in the county of St Andrews/St David found one bar owner without proof of vaccination.
County Medical Officer of Health, Dr Allana Quamina-Best said the exercise was carried out on Tuesday as public health inspectors visited businesses that had chosen to participate in the TT Safe Zone system.
In the TT Safe Zone system, only fully vaccinated employees and customers are allowed to work and or access bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, water parks, private members’ clubs, gaming houses, and gyms.
In the case of employees, copies of their vaccinated cards must be kept on the premises at all times, while patrons need to have proof of vaccination and one form of valid identification on them.
During the exercise, Quamina-Best said public health officials inspected a total of 18 restaurants; 13 bars; one gaming house; and a gym – and found the bar owner to be in breach of the safe zone regulations after he failed to produce proof of his COVID-19 vaccination.
“There was one bar in which the owner did not have proof of being vaccinated, and so that matter has now been referred to the TTPS for their follow-up,” she said.
Providing a further breakdown of the findings at the 13 bars inspected, Quamina-Best revealed that seven of them were found to be satisfactory, while one had opted to operate a take-out service.
Of the 18 restaurants inspected, only two chose to be part of the safe zone initiative, while the remaining 16 continued to operate a take-out service.
The lone gym and single gaming house assessed were found to be compliant with the Safe Zone policies.
The St Andrews/St David County which stretches from Cumuto to Toco, contains a total of 356 establishments potentially eligible to be deemed Safe Zones including 133 bars; 17 gaming houses/betting pools; six fitness studios or gyms; 60 private members’ clubs; 88 restaurants; and 52 special restaurants.
The public health inspectors are comprised of trained personnel from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government.
Regarding people who have applied for a deferral or exemption from being vaccinated, Quamina-Best reinforced, “If that person is an employee of one of the safe zone establishments, that employee must produce to the employer a negative rapid test or a negative PCR test every 14 days and a copy of the results must be kept on the premises for inspection.”
For unvaccinated patrons in possession of a deferral or exemption from being vaccinated, she added, “They too must provide to the owner/operator of the safe zone business, a copy of the rapid test or negative PCR test which was issued no more than 48 hours prior to them seeking entry to the restaurant or bar. A copy of this document must be kept on the premises for inspection.”
Responding to questions relating to the social media claim by the alleged unvaccinated person who claimed he was able to access a cinema Safe Zone to watch a movie, Quamina-Best promised this would be investigated. (See more in 2nd story on this page)
She said, “What that person has now done is expose themselves and the establishment for further investigation by the TTPS.”
“The regulation is quite clear. An owner or operator of a business who at any time is found to be in contravention, commits an offence and shall be issued a fixed penalty notice. The same applies to a patron who has entered the TT Safe Zone area without the required documentation. They too can be issued a fixed penalty notice because they have committed an offence. I imagine our colleagues at the TTPS will be following through on the social media posting.”
She reiterated that businesses found to be in breach of the Safe Zone regulations will face a $25,000 fine, while an unvaccinated person found within a safe zone will be fined $5,000.
Quamina-Best revealed they have had to refer nine persons to the Police Service that would have breached home quarantine orders in her county during the period January to present.
“In a few instances, we have had to remove persons from their homes into State supervised quarantine to ensure they maintain isolation from everyone else, but by and large, we do see persons trying to stick to the rules.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram is scheduled to meet with police next week as a follow-up to last week’s session which related to enforcement of the regulations.
He said “The Chief Public Health Inspector is our focal point from the MoH and he is providing me with a status update every Friday hopefully, so as weekly update as to what is happening in all counties across the country in terms of compliance, inspections, breaches.”
On the digitisation of the vaccination card system, Parasram was unable to provide a timeline as he said they continued to work with the relevant authorities to set up a digital client listing.