Islanders could soon be fined up to £1,000 if they fail to wear a mask when required.
The Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, this week put forward legislation paving the way for masks to become a legal requirement for people aged 12 and over.
Due to face a vote next week, the proposals include provisions for a new criminal offence of failing to wear a mask when required to do so in certain public places – such as in shops – without a medical exemption or other “reasonable excuse.”
If an islander refuses to put on a mask after being asked to do so by a shop or business where it is required, the business would be able to contact the Police.
The maximum penalty will be a £1,000 fine, with Deputy Renouf explaining that it will be up to court to “judge the appropriate penalty as fairly as possible”, taking into account the risk and harm resulting from the breach.
Pictured: Judges will be able to impose a fine of up to £1,000 under the proposed new rules.
If the legislation is passed, the Minister will also be able to make orders clamping down on what has been termed “creative non-compliance” in the form of using “deliberately unsuitable materials (such as lace doilies)” for masks. Cloth masks are being recommended for healthy members of the community, while islanders at higher risk should wear surgical masks.
In a report accompanying his proposals in which he lays out the medical evidence supporting the wearing of masks, the Minister acknowledges that requiring individuals to wear face coverings is “clearly an imposition on their freedom”, adding that “the decision to allow such a requirement to be introduced is not taken lightly.”
Compulsory wearing of masks in communal areas in schools for Years 11, 12 and 13 came into force today, while teachers, staff and adult visitors are also being advised to wear nose and mouth coverings.
Pictured: Mask wearing for older students comes into force today.
It comes after a number of covid clusters were identified among older school students and follows a warning that young people partying and socialising had had a "significant" impact on the spread of the virus locally.
Some students and adults are exempt from the new mask advice, however, and will be able to apply for an exemption card through their school office. This includes:
Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, commented: “Mouth and nose coverings - including cloth masks, disposable masks, and clear face shields – can help prevent the transmission of respiratory droplets, and help prevent the transmission of covid-19.
“While there is growing evidence that younger children are not super-spreaders, the risk of transmission is greater in older children and young adults which explains why we have limited face coverings to this group.”
Minister for Education, Senator Tracey Vallois, added: “When we made the decision to re-open schools in early June, I was clear that the safety of students, staff, and their families was our priority.
“As the covid-19 situation is changing, so is the guidance we are issuing. Along with the Deputy Medical Officer of Health, I have already written to parents and schools to explain the new measures.
“This new advice will help keep our schools safe, without disrupting the teaching and learning experience.”
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