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Minister of Home Affairs explains new ticketing system for COVID-19 violations

Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2021. 1:26 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, detailed for the first time the new ticketing system under the Public Health Act for breaches of the COVID-19 quarantine regulations.

While the standard fine for violations remains $500, the system ensures that coming to court is a last resort. The regulations allow for a set payment period; a chance to challenge the violation in court, and further penalties if the fine is not paid on time.

Musa said, “Essentially, it is a $500 fine. You do have 15 days in which to pay the fine. If it is that you want to go to court and challenge that, for instance, you were wearing your mask on that particular day and the officers ought not to have given you a ticket, then you can appear in court on the day that is set, because there will be a day set there as a summons. So, when you are given this ticket you will see the fine on it $500, you will see a notation that it will be increased $10 a day after the 15th day, but you are going to be given a court date if it is that you want to challenge that particular ticket.”

The violations include those for individuals and businesses – curfew violation, mask wearing, social distancing, engagement in contact sports and so on.

Earlier, Musa said that while a “significant majority” of Belizeans are law-abiding and regulation-abiding, there are hundreds who are not, as outlined by the Police Department. “We are enforcing – it might not be at the very moment you are seeing it, but if somebody reports it and a police officer is in the area, the individuals who are not wearing their mask or who are not social distancing are being charged…”

The ticketing system provides for greater enforcement, Musa said, than the arrest and detention of individuals for months on end before appearing in court, which also reduces the logjam in court.

No matter the size of the group, if it is more than two, Musa warned, social distancing will be enforced and violators will be ticketed, no exceptions.

The incident with American Cher Urbina in Caye Caulker last week was a stricter-than-usual interpretation of the regulation which does not on its face provide for eating in public with a mask, said Musa, but police are generally encouraged to use their discretion, calling it “a case study:”

“The officers have been asked to use their discretion, and so I’m not going to sit here and chew off my officers’ heads that were out there in Caye Caulker doing their job, because the law doesn’t provide for it. Other officers may have used their discretion in a different manner.”

Tourists are to be treated the same as Belizeans, with customer care important, Musa said, but he personally would not have gone ahead with charges, even considering the two prior warnings the tourist was given.


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