Residents of the British Virgin Islands who fail to comply with the government-imposed quarantine could now be fined thousands of dollars in a court of law or be sent to prison for up to 12 months.
Health Minister Carvin Malone gave that indication during Friday’s emergency session of the House of Assembly while introducing the new COVID-19 Control and Suppression (Miscellaneous & Provisions) Act of 2020.
He said the court could fine perpetrators “up to 5,000” along with a custodial sentence upon summary (Magistrate’s Court) conviction.
We prefer to fine culprits
Malone explained that while the term of imprisonment is attached for the court’s consideration, a special prison would have to be constructed, specifically to enable these persons to serve their time.
“We would rather the money. We will do everything to collect the $5,000” the minister said.
He explained that if someone is suspected of having a virus such as the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), placing them at a facility like Her Majesty’s Prison in Balsam Ghut would be a breeding ground for the virus which would, effectively, defeat the purpose of quarantining.
Increased powers to order mandatory quarantine
The COVID-19 Control and Suppression (Miscellaneous & Provisions) Act also gives the Minister of Health the power to order persons entering the BVI from countries impacted by the virus to quarantine for two weeks.
“Clause Two will determine whether such persons will be quarantined at their residence or at any government-appointed quarantine facility,” Malone explained.
Prior to the introduction of this Act -which passed in the House Friday night, March 27 -the law only allowed for authorities to enforce a quarantine order if a person tested positive for the virus.
Malone said this limitation affected government’s ability to impose a ‘mandatory quarantine’ order for suspected COVID-19 cases because persons had the legal freedom do decline being quarantined.
Power to restrict ferry operations
The Act, in the meantime, also now has provisions to restrict ferries and commercial vessels during a pandemic.
At least two opposition legislators including the Leader of Opposition, Marlon Penn, publicly expressed support for the Act. The other was Second District Representative Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull.
Turnbull said he had no choice but to support because of the seriousness of COVID-19 while Penn stated that it was unfortunate that laws like these have to be passed to protect residents.