COVID mask

Fines for non-wearing of face masks will likely be on a sliding scale ranging from the minimum traffic ticket fine or up to $20,000 depending on the circumstances, Government sources indicated yesterday.

Legislation will be debated and passed in the House of Representatives this afternoon on the wearing of masks as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 virus.

The Public Health Ordinance bill 2020 will deal with the issue and other regulations in the current public health regulations on the virus. Fines for violations of some measures are $50,000 plus six months’ jail.

The bill also involves a menu of items in the ordinance that will be flexible and depend on the gravity of the situation at any point in time. Fines will be in synch with how serious situations are. The Health Minister will be empowered to amend the schedule to the regulations to add or remove offences and alter fixed penalties. But in no case would a fixed penalty be more than $20,000.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi recently said people who don’t wear masks will be ticketed. The issue caused some concern yesterday, with social media users speculating on what level fines may be.

Yesterday, Al-Rawi added that the fines were still being “finalised” but didn’t want to say what they would be.

Other People’s National Movement sources explained that the fines for those ticketed for not wearing masks would be on a sliding scale and fines could start from the minimum $1,000 level of a traffic ticket or range as high as $20,000 according to the circumstances. They said the fines would not go higher than $20,000.

Yesterday, United National Congress PRO Anita Haynes said while the Opposition’s in agreement with mask-wearing the “devil is in the details” of proposed legislation being presented today.

Haynes said, “What we were sent was the Public Health Amendment bill. We have to see what the further regulations are – but the devil is in the details. We’ll ensure what was presented is in best public interest.”

The bill only requires simple majority votes for passage. Once passed in the Lower House, the amendment will be passed in the Senate tomorrow (Sat) and is expected to become effective tomorrow or by the end of the weekend.

—Gail Alexander