Parliament late Tuesday passed amendments to the nation's public health law, legislating fines of up to EC$2,000 (1 EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) for each day that a COVID-19 quarantine is breached.
Minister of Health Senator Luke Browne, who presented the legislation, said it was 'fairly consequential' and Opposition Leader Godwin Friday gave the support of opposition lawmakers.
The 1977 Public Health Act provided for a maximum fine of EC$250 and imprisonment without the option of a fine for not more than three months, or both.
'Well, you know $250 ain't going cause anybody to blink these days, but in 1977, it might have been a different proposition,' Browne told Parliament.
The law also speaks to the quarantine of items, such as baggage, containers and goods, and Browne said that a business that contravenes the revised law can be fined up to EC$10,000, while an individual can be fined EC$2,000 and imprisoned for up to six months.
Where the offence is committed or continues to be committed on more than one day, the person is liable to be convicted for a separate offence for each day on which the offence is committed or continued.
Minister of Health Senator Luke Browne.
A corporation that commits a second or subsequent offence is liable to a fine of EC$50,000; and in the case of an individual, a fine of $10,000 and one year in prison.
Earlier on, there was an adjustment made to the list of infectious disease to include COVID-19, Browne said.
The Health Minister said that based on government's experience with the Public Health Act, it realized that amendments were needed.
He said the bulk of the changes concern Sections 26 and 27 of the Act, which speak to 'isolation' and 'quarantine'.
'Mr. Speaker, one of the most popular words, I believe, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines today is 'quarantine'.... Some people have a different meaning of what the meaning might be,' he said.
Browne said the revisions to the law define 'quarantine' to mean 'the restriction of activities or separation from others of suspect persons who are not ill or of suspect baggage, containers, goods in such a manner as to prevent the possible spread of infection or contamination'.
He said a definition was not found in the earlier legislation, though it spoke to the concept.
Of 'isolation', the revised Section 26 of the law states: 'Where in the opinion of a health officer any persons certified by a medical practitioner to be suffering from a communicable disease is not...