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New regulations for a new normal

Grenada’s “new normal” going forward means limiting social gatherings to 20 persons and wedding and funerals to 75 persons, excluding officials; as well as mandatory wearing of masks with few exceptions. These are among the regulations under the Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations, which replace the Emergency Powers regulations.

“The expectation going forward is that everyone in Grenada will comply with the COVID regulations, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Jessmon Prince told reporters on Tuesday.

Stating that the Public Health regulations are permanent, Superintendent Vannie Curwen, officer in charge of community relations, said they “bring into focus new players” such as environmental health officers, public health officers and other health care professionals to manage the coronavirus.

While the regulations give “significant authority” to officials from the Ministry of Health, Supt Curwen pointed to the 15 “ticketable” offences that will soon be enforced by officers. 

Speaking at Tuesday’s Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) press briefing, he called on the media to inform the public about the regulations over the next few days as enforcement “RGPF style” will commence after a “grace period.”

As to the length of the grace period, ACP Prince said it has taken time for members of the RGPF to study and fully understand all the regulations, which went into effect on September 16, 2020. “It will take the public a little while to get there too,” he cautioned, adding that Police Officers will be doing a lot of talking, engaging and warning members of the public about the new regulations to help people “digest this information.”

“I’m not sure how long it will take,” he said.

The regulations provide several “reasonable excuses” for persons who are unable to wear a mask, including health conditions, a physical disability, children under five years and employees working in an enclosed space that is not accessible to the public, among other stated excuses.

The regulations require children over five years to wear masks in public; adults responsible for children in public can be charged if a child over five years is not wearing a mask. Hosts and attendees at social gatherings exceeding 20 persons can be charged, as can persons attending weddings and funerals exceeding 75 persons, excluding officials.

All businesses must adhere to distancing and sanitisation protocols. Business owners and operators, including buses, taxis and vehicles for hire, must ensure hands are sanitised before anyone can enter and that every person entering the business is wearing a mask and continues to wear the mask. Failure to do so will eventually lead to charges, as officers gradually begin enforcement.

“We really wish that we do not have to get to the point of enforcement,” ACP Prince said, preferring engagement and education.

While the regulations give more power to the Minister of Health to grant permissions or apply restrictions, Supt Curwen said permission and duration to host an event with amplified music must still be obtained from the Commissioner of Police.

When asked what lessons the RGPF has learned from dealing with the pandemic that can be applied as the country prepares for the return of visitors and potential cases here, ACP Prince said officers have to be prepared to be “fully clad” in personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protective gear  “if we have to physically handle a person.” 

When asked if training includes COVID-19 response for young people hoping to become Police Officers, he said the curriculum covers medical emergency situations.

“That particular subject matter may be amended a little bit to address specifically the COVID-19 aspect of the medical response.”

Grenada is “doing well” to keep COVID-19 at bay, but we “have to be mindful that COVID will only respect those persons who respect it,” he admonished.

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