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Diana Mahabir-Wyatt

One human rights activist and a youth development specialist are baffled by what they say is the “fuss” parents have been putting up over the fines imposed in the Public Health Regulations which can see children at the age of eight years and over, ticketed for not wearing face masks.

The measure was announced by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in a media conference on Monday after the president assented to legislation passed on the weekend to enforce the wearing of masks in public and in vehicles.

Speaking to Guardian Media yesterday, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt reminded parents and guardians that they are responsible for ensuring their children’s protection.

“If you are a parent, you know you are legally, morally, emotionally and spiritually responsible for your children whether it be behaviour or welfare,” she said.

Under the new regulation, a child who is eight years old and over, and is seen in public without a face mask in the absence of parents or guardians, can be fined up to $1,000.

Several parents and guardians have since expressed concern over the regulation saying it is sometimes difficult to get their children to wear masks for prolonged periods.

Youth Development Specialist, Hanif Benjamin, said he finds it “disappointing” that the Government has to ask parents to protect their children from COVID-19, a virus that has claimed thousands of lives around the globe and up to 4 pm yesterday 25 in Trinidad and Tobago.

According to Benjamin, “the age of criminal responsibility is that of eight years I believe so it means that a child eight years and over can be charged with a criminal offence, depending on what it is.”

He encouraged parents to speak to their children about the pandemic “in an age-appropriate way” to ensure a level of understanding and co-operation both inside and outside of the home setting.

Both Mahabir-Wyatt and Benjamin called on parents to see this as a responsibility and not be unreasonable.

Mahabir-Wyatt stated, “You do not fine an 8-year-old child that is not possible.”

She added, “It is not possible to fine a child under 12 and nobody expects children to be out working to earn money to pay for a fine. The act itself makes it clear that the responsible person is the parent so I am not quite sure what the problem is.”

The regulation provides an exemption for persons with medical conditions and children under the age of eight.