Owners, managers may be charged with flouting COVID measures; stiffer penalties in the works

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 April 2021, 15:03 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday said the National COVID-19 Task Force has been asked to explore charging owners and managers of entertainment places where many persons go in violation of social distancing rules, even as government plans to amend the law to  allow for stiffer penalties.

“I have asked the Prime Minister to discuss with the Task Force how we now shift the focus on the owners of these facilities and the managers of these facilities so if the owners and managers allow these breaches at their facilities, then they’ll be charged to the full extent of the law,” he said.

Dr. Ali vowed that there would be “stronger enforcement” and “we are going to add more boots in the ground” from police and soldiers to support that enforcement. He also announced that the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has been asked to toughen the relevant legislation and regulation because “the fines are inadequate.”

Despite soaring daily new cases and faster rate of deaths due to COVID-19, the President ruled out extending the curfew hours. “Based on all the advice I have received and the Task Force would have debated and deliberated, there is no need for adjustment of the curfew; we have made this very clear,” he said.

The President said countries do not know the duration of the efficacy of the vaccines and whether populations would be required to take jabs annually.

Lamenting that Guyanese have for the most part not obeyed the COVID-19 measures, he said it would be logistically impossible to lock up large numbers of persons and unhealthy to take all of them to a police station. “If we take all 1,000 persons into a police station, we are creating another disaster,” he said in recalling being informed by the COVID-19 Task Force that about 1,000 persons had been socialising on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.

Dr. Al said the lives of all Guyanese “matter” and they “cannot be this reckless”. “The irresponsibility of some is costing us because we now have to put more resources in this aspect of the pandemic when we could use those resources in the public information and education aspect or in mainstream health care,” he said.

The President’s concerns came one day after the Guyana Police Force warned soldiers, police and prison service personnel against collaborating with civilians or taking full responsibility for social events when police turn up. The Police Force said “condign” action would be taken.