What d FAQ? COVID-19 and You: Masks
Q: Do I need to wear a mask?
A: The present Public Health Regulations have removed many of the circumstances in which you are required to wear a face mask, face shield or face covering.
You are now only required by law to wear either a face mask, face shield or face covering covering your mouth, nose and chin when you are at a private hospital, public hospital or private or public medical clinic. Medical clinics are defined as an "organised medical service which provides diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic services on an out-patient basis, including dental services" so likely include private doctors' offices.
Similarly to the older Public Health Regulations, where a child accompanies you, you must provide the child with and ensure that the child wears either a face mask, face shield or face so as to cover their mouth, nose and chin. Importantly, whilst the older Public Health Regulations specified this in relation to children who are 8 years or older, the present Regulations do not. The present Regulations may apply to children irrespective of their age.
The Regulations have not changed the definition of 'face covering' and it continues to mean a covering of any type which covers your nose, mouth and chin. The Regulations also refer to 'face covering', 'face mask' and 'face shield' interchangeably, so that you may use any, and not all, of these. It does mean, however, that you may receive a fixed penalty fine for wearing your face mask or face below your nose.
Q: When don't I need to wear a mask?
A: The law requires you to wear a mask in these circumstances, unless you have a 'reasonable excuse'. The Regulations define a 'reasonable excuse' as circumstances including:
- where you cannot put on, wear or remove a mask, shield or other covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, disability or without severe distress.
- where you're travelling with or assisting another person who relies on lip reading to communicate with you.
- where you remove the mask, shield or covering to avoid harm, injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or another person.
- where you're travelling to avoid injury, or to escape the risk of harm and you do not have a mask, shield or covering with you. Since the present Regulations do not require masking in a vehicle, this likely remained to cover all forms of 'travelling', however interpreted, rather than simply by private vehicle or vehicle for hire.
- where its reasonably necessary for you to eat, drink and you remove your mask, shield or covering to eat or drink or to take medication.
- where a request is made for you to remove your mask, shield or covering temporarily for security and identification services to receive services.
- where is otherwise authorised by the Ministry of Health.
If you've been the subject of a fixed penalty fine for failure to wear your mask, or to ensure a child accompanying you is wearing theirs, and one of these exceptions apply, consult with your lawyer immediately. You can read more about choosing a lawyer here.
Q: What happens if I don't wear my mask, shield or covering and these exceptions don't apply?
A: Failure to wear your mask, shield or covering when required is a criminal offence.
In relation to a failure to wear a mask, shield or covering when required, you're liable to a fine of $2,000.00 plus administrative fees by fixed penalty notice.
In relation to a failure to ensure that a child accompanying you wears a mask, shield or covering when required, you're liable to a fine of $1,000.00 plus administrative fees by fixed penalty notice.
If you fail to pay the fixed penalty fine, you're liable to be charged. On summary conviction you're liable to a fine of $5,000.00 and a term of imprisonment of 3 days. If this section applies to you, consult with your lawyer immediately. You can read more about choosing a lawyer here.
As with most fixed penalty fines, if ticketed, you can appeal to a Magistrate within the relevant district.
There are certain other requirements with which the fixed penalty notices must comply and you can read more about these here, or consult with your lawyer.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask otherwise?
A: Owners and operators of businesses who supply goods or services to the public may require members of the public or employees to wear masks. Relative to the public, remember private businesses are private premises and are therefore allowed to control the conditions upon which the public enters.
Government offices may also adopt similar policies. For example, to access any court house, the Judiciary of T&T has adopted masking requirements similar to the older Public Health Regulations. You can check these out here.
The Minister is also authorised to issue guidelines to other trades, professions, businesses, services or public gatherings under the Regulations up until 03rd July, 2023. It is likely that after this date new Regulations will extend the time in which the Minister may issue further guidelines. However, it is important to note that without further Regulations being made, Regulation 10 specifies that the breach of any such guidelines "shall not constitute an offence".
Last updated: 14 April 2023.