Senators pass fixed penalty law for Covid
Senators rubber-stamped a number of bills relating to Covid-19 safety regulations during tyesterday’s session of the upper house.
A government order extending a state of emergency to April 25 was supported by all senators.
And both the Public Health Amendment Act, and the Quarantine Amendment Act – which grants health officials the authority to issue fixed-penalty tickets for breaches of safety regulations – were also passed.
Senator Curtis Richardson, the junior minister of health, said that the public had “a civic responsibility to protect themselves” against the virus.
He said: “We live on a very small island and Covid-19 can spread quickly and impact our whole community as scores of people test positive and hundreds end up in quarantine.”
He added that Government’ vaccination programme was on target, with more than 38,000 doses being administered in the last three months.
He said the aim of the bills was to make breaches easier to process, by issuing offenders with on-the-spot fixed penalty fines, in the manner of traffic offences.
He said that this would “relieve pressure“ on the courts and police service.
The new law will apply to less serious breaches, such as holding a party with more than the maximum number of people allowed, or breaking the 11pm curfew.
Senator Richardson pointed out that more serious breaches, such as knowingly spreading the virus, will still be prosecuted through the courts.
For the Opposition, Senator Robin Tucker said that it was “very sad” that law enforcers were having to issue penalty tickets over matters “of life and death”.|
She added that the One Bermuda Alliance did not oppose the bill.
“I do think this bill will relieve pressure on the courts that are overtaxed and finding it difficult to keep up to schedule,” she said.
But Senator Tucker did express concern that health officials will be able to hand out tickets to offenders.
“That’s a lot of authority being given to public health officers, particularly as they are not trained to do such a task,” she said.