Minister of National Security Renée Ming confirmed today that more than 20 files on recent COVID-19 breaches have been sent to the the Director of Public Prosecutions Office for review – including 12 files sent in by the police on Thursday (March 18).
Speaking in the House of Assembly this morning, she said there’s more to come on these cases, which are bound for Magistrates’ Court.
She noted that “a person who fails to comply with any of these Regulations commits an offence”, is liable to the following:
• a fine of $6,000, in respect of a first offence
• for a second or subsequent offence, a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both
• in the case of a continuing offence, a fine of $1,000 in respect of each day during which the offence is continued
“To date, the DPP has received 22 files in total for curfew violations and non-compliance to the COVID-19 regulations, and more continue to be submitted regularly,” said the Minister.
“Through traditional news media and social media, many of us have seen the evidence of parties and gatherings that exceed the approved group gathering limits.
“The fact that the attendees of these events also violated the health and safety protocols by not wearing masks or practising physical distancing further compounds the recklessness of hosting these events,” she added.
The Minister also addressed the public’s perception on the lack of action against people who break the rules.
“I understand the community’s outrage that these events are taking place, particularly when the majority of our community are rightly adhering to the Regulations,” said Ms Ming.
“I also appreciate the community’s frustration at the perception that we are all being punished because of the few who do not adhere to the Regulations and that not enough is being done to hold those accountable who blatantly break the law.
I am advised that the Bermuda Police Service and the Department of Public Prosecutions are diligently taking steps to bring those who violate the Public Health Act and the associated Regulations before the courts.”
She also noted that “these regulations are not meant to be punitive”.
“They have been enacted to minimize the impact of Covid-19 with the hope that we will soon be able to safely gather together again.
“Notwithstanding, the Government has included penalties as a deterrent against violating the regulations.”
The Minister also appealed to residents “to exercise a degree of personal responsibility by making sensible decisions to protect themselves and their family, friends and loved ones” during the Good Friday and Easter Holiday.
“We all must continue to do what we can to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus by complying with the policy in place.”
I rise this morning to provide to this Honorable House and the public with a reminder of the legal measures of the Public Health (COVID-19 Emergency Powers) Regulations 2021, which have been enacted, and from time to time amended ,in an effort to prevent another surge in COVID-19 positive cases in Bermuda.
Honourable Members will be aware that over the course of the last two weeks, the Ministry of Health has reported a total of 33 COVID-19 active cases. Five (5) of these new cases were the result of local transmission. Following a period of a consistent decrease in locally transmitted cases, this increase should be concerning to the public.
What should also be concerning, are the recent activities that have taken place that are in direct violation of the Regulations. Through traditional news media and social media, many of us have seen the evidence of parties and gatherings that exceed the approved group gathering limits. The fact that the attendees of these events also violated the health and safety protocols by not wearing masks or practicing physical distancing further compounds the recklessness of hosting these events.
As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, please allow me to set out some reminders of the parameters of the Public Health (COVID-19 Emergency Powers) Regulations 2021. First and foremost, we remain under nightly curfew from 12 midnight until 5am. There is also a curfew in effect from 8pm until 5am for recreational boating. Bars and nightclubs are not permitted to be open beyond 11pm and are limited to table service only.
Large Group Gatherings are still limited to 25 persons. For indoor services or ceremonies in a church or other religious establishment, the number of persons who can gather is limited to 25 percent of the indoor area’s full capacity. At outdoor services or ceremonies (including weddings and funerals), the number of attendees cannot exceed 50 persons. More importantly, appropriate physical distancing and the proper wearing of masks covering both the nose and mouth is required in all public and private spaces.
The Regulations provide the Bermuda Police Service with a number of enforcement tools. If a contravention of the Public Health COVID-19 Emergency Powers Regulations has occurred on the premises, the police can order a licensed premise to close for a period not exceeding 24 hours.
The public is reminded that as outlined in the Regulations, the police or any other enforcement officer may stop and question any individual to ensure compliance with the Regulations. If any person is found to be in contravention of the Regulations, or does not satisfy an enforcement officer’s requests to comply with the Regulations, the enforcement officer may take actions to enforce the Regulations, including the dispersal of any group more than 25 persons.
If necessary, an enforcement officer may use reasonable force in the exercise of a power under these Regulations. It is an offence to resist, obstruct, or assault, an enforcement officer who is acting in the execution of their duty under these Regulations.
These Regulations are not meant to be punitive. They have been enacted to minimize the impact of COVID-19 with the hope that we will soon be able to safely gather together again. Notwithstanding, the Government has included the noted penalties as a deterrent against violating the Regulations.
I would like to note that yesterday the BPS submitted 12 files to the Department of Public Prosecutions. To date, the DPP has received 22 files in total for curfew violations and non-compliance to the Covid 19 Regulations, and more continue to be submitted regularly.
There have been a number of questions regarding the Government’s proposed fixed penalty legislation. As the Premier advised earlier this week, the Ministry of Health has prepared the framework for legislation that would see fixed penalties apply for a finite set of material breaches of COVID-19 Regulations. This legislation is in the drafting stages with the Attorney General’s Chambers. While it is unlikely that the legislation will be retroactive, the public is again reminded that under the current Regulations, people linked to recent parties could be subject to a fine or conviction.
In closing, I would like to say that as a country we have demonstrated resilience and discipline in navigating this pandemic and we must remain vigilant.
As we all know the Good Friday/Easter holiday is upon us. As a result the Ministry team have received a number of large gathering requests. Please note that a careful review will be done before there can be an approval of any event.
We all must continue to do what we can to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus by complying with the policy in place. I understand that we are all suffering from Covid19 fatigue, but we must remain vigilant. It’s up to each of us to keep out families and friends safe. Please continue to follow the health guidelines – this includes wearing a mask, hand sanitizing and maintaining the appropriate physical distancing.