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Undercover police to monitor Covid-19 rule compliance

Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes and Renee Ming, the Minister of National Security, talked about Covid-19 rules (Photograph by staff)

Plain-clothes police officers are to be deployed to check that businesses are in line with Covid-19 regulations, it was revealed yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Martin Weekes said it was one of the steps being taken as part of a “proportionate” response to make sure rules are followed.

Mr Weekes added: “We are going to have some officers in plain clothes who will be going around and going into premises all across the island just to see what they can see.

“Sometimes it could be that people are suddenly getting their act together when they hear the police are coming in.

“So we’re going to have some officers working in plain clothes as well just to see if people are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

“Again, this is about compliance. It’s not about tricking people, it’s not about tripping people up.”

Mr Weekes said the plain-clothes team would back up the uniformed Covid-19 compliance team, which included full-time and reserve officers.

Mr Weekes said: “They’ve been out all this week going to bars, restaurants and other licensed premises doing compliance checking, making sure that everybody’s doing what they need to do.

“This is not about enforcement, this is about compliance, we want people to comply.”

He said that in some cases police received reports of regulation breaches, but when officers turned up, they found no evidence.

Mr Weekes added that liquor licensed premises could now be shut down for 24 hours on the approval of an Inspector instead of a Superintendent.

Rules announced earlier this week mean that anyone who does not wear a mask when required can be fined $500 for a first offence and $1,000 for further offences.

Mr Weekes said that police will monitor the wearing of masks.

But he added: “What we’re not going to be doing is zero tolerance.

“If you get out of your car and start walking towards a store, which we’ve all done, and suddenly realise ’oh, I haven’t got my mask’ and walk back to the car, no one is going to be jumping on you and giving you a fine.”

The Bermuda Police Service said later it was aware of a message circulated on social media that claimed “officers are waiting in grocery store parking lots fining people for getting out their cars without masks”.

Mr Weekes said that was untrue.

He explained: “We are not looking to criminalise people who are just going about their everyday business, but this is a serious issue and we will be exercising the powers that have been granted us under this legislation to keep people safe.”

Mr Weekes added: “We’re talking about proportionality because zero tolerance is a very difficult place to come back from.

“If you do zero tolerance now, later on there’s nowhere else to go, so we’re not there yet.

“We are going to do this proportionately and fairly and if things need shutting down, we’re going to shut them down.”

Mr Weekes said later that police will take action against offenders and anyone “flouting the regulations” would end up in court.

He told the public: “Should you see someone not following the rules, politely ask them to put their mask on or to practise social distancing if they’re less than six feet apart from the person nearest to them.”

Renee Ming, the Minister of National Security, highlighted that large groups will be limited to 50 people unless an exemption has been approved.

She said: “Application for an exemption must be made at least ten working days in advance of the date of the event.”

Ms Ming added: “It bears repeating – Covid-19 remains with us, and I’m urging residents to exercise a degree of personal responsibility.

“As a reminder, we all must continue to do what we can to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus and comply with the policies in place.

“In spite of the uptick in cases, Bermuda has generally managed this pandemic extremely well, thanks in large part to the health guidance and recommendations put in place.

“With the colder months now upon us, we’re asking people to please continue to follow the health guidelines to protect you and your families – especially during this holiday season.

“This includes wearing a mask, hand sanitising and maintaining the appropriate physical distancing.”

Large group exemption forms will be available on the Government website from next week.

Ms Ming said that the public should report violations of the regulations to the police 211 number.

Mask rules explained:

• Under the emergency regulations for Covid-19, residents are required to wear a mask protecting the nose and mouth in situations where they cannot maintain social distancing of 6ft.

• Wear a mask so it comes close to the bridge of the nose, and all the way down under the chin.

• Exceptions are for people at home or with members of their household, people eating and drinking, and children aged under 2.

• The mask requirement applies to all workplaces, public transport or taxis, and visiting any establishment, including outdoors, unless otherwise instructed.

• It includes parks, streets and other public places where 6ft separation cannot be maintained.

• To safely remove a used cloth face covering, do not touch the eyes, nose or mouth.

• People should hands immediately after removal.

• A washing machine should adequately clean a cloth face covering.

• Cloth face coverings should be washed on a regular basis, depending on frequency of use.

• The health department warned that children under 10 are less likely to wear masks correctly and should not be in situations where they are forced to wear masks all day at school or in daycare.

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Published December 05, 2020 at 1:58 pm (Updated December 05, 2020 at 1:57 pm)

Undercover police to monitor Covid-19 rule compliance

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