Posted: Monday, January 25, 2021. 2:52 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Before she was carted off, literally, to the Caye Caulker Police Station from which she was ultimately released, the unnamed female tourist captured on video over the weekend had twice been warned over not wearing a mask in public while she was eating, Police Commissioner Chester Williams told reporters today.
While internally it is a matter of discretion, the Commissioner added, the Quarantine Regulations, strictly speaking, do not make provision for eating and drinking in public as an excuse not to wear a mask – the provisions only refer to dining at outdoor restaurants and similar facilities.
“It was in that light that I had said that the officers may have overreacted and could have used their discretion; but equally, it must be understood that the tourist must abide by the law. And the officers, even in the video footage that you have seen, did try to exercise some level of patience in how they dealt with her. But, at the end of the day, we don’t want to promote an environment that will not be conducive to our tourists, especially in a time like this. And so, we must, to some extent, exercise some discretion when we encounter persons – whether they are tourists or not – and they are seen eating or drinking in public,” the Commissioner said in reference to his social media statement following the incident.
Commissioner Williams further clarified that the discretion over lowering masks to eat and drink does not cover drinking alcohol, only water or nourishing drink; and eating is only limited to nourishing food, usually that offered by take-out from restaurants and not snacks. That discretion also takes in locals, some of whom have avoided arrest when seen eating or drinking in public without wearing a mask or with it lowered.
Caye Caulker police will be receiving customer care training related to the tourist industry to avoid further issues, but that is not an admission of wrongdoing on the officers’ or Department’s part.
As to the question of showing “entitlement”, the Commissioner conceded it was possible, but he also saw the other side of the officers running out of patience especially as her “crafty behaviour” earned sympathy in Belizean quarters, not to mention ears abroad. The Department, he said, is cognizant of the importance of tourism to national gross domestic product (GDP) and will not stand in the way of that.
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