Thursday, 2 April 2020
Coronavirus Stay At Home Law
Does the government have the power to order citizens to stay home in the absence of a State of Emergency?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Health allegedly has the power to, and has been making various Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-Ncov)] Regulations under the Public Health Ordinance (however, for the latter, I have not been able to find the most recent online version inclusive of all amendments… but I will update this blog post when I do).
The first part of this process was this proclamation by the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Her Excellency Paula Mae-Weekes, on 31st January 2020 to declare the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to be a dangerous infectious disease.
When that was done, not only did it lay the groundwork for the possibility of a State of Emergency to be declared at any point during the pandemic, in accordance with section 8 of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, but it also put the Quarantine Act 1944, as amended into play:
4. (1) The Minister may, (strangely, this Act does not specify which Minister, although one can surmise that it means the Minister responsible for health) subject to affirmative resolution of Parliament, make Regulations, as respects the whole or any part of Trinidad and Tobago, including the ports and coastal waters thereof, for preventing—
(a) danger to public health from ships or aircraft or persons or things therein, arriving at any place; and
(b) the spread of infection by means of any ship or aircraft about to leave any place, or by means of any person or thing about to leave any place in any ship or aircraft.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred by subsection (1), regulations under that subsection may, for the purposes therein set forth, make provision for all or any of the following matters:
(a) the collection and transmission of epidemiological and sanitary information;
(b) the signals to be displayed by ships or aircraft;
(c) the questions to be answered and information (whether oral or documentary) to be supplied by masters, commanders and other persons who are or have been on board any ship or aircraft or are desirous of boarding any ship or aircraft;
(d) the detention of ships or aircraft and of persons and things that are or have been on board them;
6. (1) When in the opinion of the Quarantine Authority an emergency exists, the Quarantine Authority may by Order direct special measures to be taken during the continuance of that emergency for any of the purposes specified in sections 4 and 5, and any such Order shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any regulations or rules in force by virtue of those sections.
(2) An Order made under subsection (1) may be varied or rescinded by Order of the Minister.
The offences and penalties under this Act are:
7. (1) Any person who—
(a) refuses to answer or knowingly gives an untrue answer to any inquiry made under the authority of this Act, or intentionally withholds any information reasonably required of him by an officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act, or knowingly furnishes to any such officer or other person any information which is false;
(b) refuses or wilfully omits to do any act which he is required to do by this Act, or refuses or wilfully omits to carry out any lawful order, instruction or condition made, given or imposed by any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act; or
(c) assaults, resists, wilfully obstructs or intimidates any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act, or offers or gives a bribe to any officer or person in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or being such officer or person, demands, solicits or takes a bribe in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or otherwise obstructs the execution of this Act,
is liable on conviction to a fine of six thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months.
Which are to be enforced by members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service:
10. (1) Every member of the Police Service shall enforce (using force if necessary) compliance with this act and with any order, instruction or condition lawfully made, given or imposed by any officer or other person under the authority of this Act; and for such purpose any member of the Police Service may board any ship or aircraft and may enter any premises without a warrant.
(2) Any member of the Police Service may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to have committed any offence against this Act.
(3) In this section the expression “member of the Police Service” includes a member of any police organisation constituted by law who has the general powers of a member of the Police Service.