LEFT: Ashely George and her daughter Alissa Thomas wear their masks to protect against CIOVID-19 as they walk along Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, over the weekend.

Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial wants the Government to rethink its decision to charge children from age eight and up for not wearing a face mask in public to protect against the COVID-19 virus. Instead, she believes a better starting point in the recently-passed law would be age 11.

The law was passed by the Senate on Saturday and has since been assented to by President Paula-Mae Weekes, coming into force on Monday.

Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, however, Lutchmedial said eight-year-old children are still very immature and out not to be subjected to such an experience.

“To say that look, we are going to fine your child, your eight-year-old child or nine-year-old a thousand dollars and you as the parent for not making them wear a mask, I feel like it’s a bit harsh, I don’t think it’s justifiable. I think it is more practical to have a higher age limit for a mandatory, enforceable rule,” Lutchmedial said

She made it clear, however, that parents should still encourage their children of all ages to wear face masks.

Under the current law, implemented to mandate that citizens to wear face masks in public after moral suasion in the first and early second wave of the virus failed, any child found in public without a face mask is liable to a fine, which starts at $1,000 for a first offence. The fine, however, will be payable by the child’s parent/guardian.

At yesterday’s Ministry of Health virtual press conference, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi showed no sign that the Government was likely to back down on this aspect of the legislation. Noting public concern about the age

Lutchmedial also weighed into other aspects of the legislation she felt were not well thought out. She pointed to the mandatory mask-wearing while exercising regulation.

“I could not believe that they said that if you are outside or exercising that you need to wear a mask. That goes against World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations,” she said.

“The World Health Organisation has said that they do not recommend wearing a mask while exercising outdoors or doing any kind of physical activity because it actually inhibits the functioning of your lungs and breathing and that is actually dangerous to your health.”

Information on the WHO website recommends, “People should NOT wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.

“Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of micro-organisms. The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.”

Lutchmedial also said police officers who will have to enforce the law in its current form will be put in a very difficult position doing so.