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We don’t want to force persons to obey – PM

We don’t want to force persons to obey – PM
DR RALPH GONSALVES

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The state prefers to use moral suasion to get persons to obey their quarantine orders rather than the heavy hand of the law.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Sunday that he had received reports that some of the 155 passengers who arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on American Airlines 945 on Saturday had not been adhering to the conditions of their quarantine.

Saturday’s flight was the first scheduled commercial flight into the Argyle International Airport since regular flights ceased at the end of March.

During a call to the Issue at Hand programme on We FM, the Prime Minister said while most of the passengers had been following the order to remain in quarantine as ordered, some were not.

He said he heard that on Saturday night, some of the persons who arrived on the flight went to a popular bar and restaurant on the Villa beach strip, and others went to church on Sunday morning.

These are persons who came from the US who are under the specific quarantine, Gonsalves said. He said some passengers were told that they would be under quarantine for at least 24 hours, and others, because they come from a high risk group, would be there for 14 days.

The Ministry has its own metrics, measurements, everything, the Prime Minister said.

I am just asking everyone coming in, listen to the Ministry of Health. The point is this. The authorities don’t want to take you before the court for you to be dealt with by the court if you are breaking the quarantine; disobeying the medical officer of health or the chief medical officer. You have to abide by the quarantine, please!

If the police come for you this morning and take you down to the barracks, to hold you there till tomorrow to take you to the court, how would you feel?

He said SVG is a small country, and the authorities have been trying to use moral suasion to get people to follow what is taking place.

But they must just listen. Follow the instructions. Even if they don’t read the document that is given to them, they know; some of them in the US know, in fact they hear it.

Gonsalves said the offenders would listen to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York or the mayor of New York City Bill deBlasio, but do not want to listen to the authorities in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

He said most persons are following the regulations, but there are a few who are creating a problem.

If you do that, you are going to put the country in a position where they are going to have to take even more stringent measures.

He asked what is so difficult for persons to wait 24 hours as requested.

The Prime Minister commended officials from the ministry of health, the immigration department, the security officials and the police force, who he said cleared all 155 passengers in just one and a half hours.

He said the State had acted properly in getting the tests done and verified.

The only area which is left now for the State to act is for the authorities to the send police for those persons and take them up and let them spend the time in the police station, today until tomorrow when they go to court.

But one does not want to do that. We want to build a culture of compliance and reasonableness. So I am making that appeal, I am not making joke on this.

Please cooperate with us.

In April 2020, the Public Health Act was amended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic so that anyone caught breaking quarantine in SVG will be liable to a $2000 fine and six months imprisonment. Every day on which an individual breaks quarantine would be considered a new offence. Therefore, a person could be charged for every day quarantine is broken.

The National Emergency Management Organization reported on Sunday night that six persons from Saturday’s AA flight 945 tested positive for Covid-19.

The number of Covid-19 positive cases recorded in the country now stands at 35, six of which are active. Prior to Sunday’s cases, the last positive case was recorded on June 16 and all cases had recovered.

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