People who breach home-isolation regulations will face a fine of $10,000 and up to two years in prison, under new amendments to the Public Health Law.
Under Cayman’s border-reopening plans, approved travellers have the option of isolating at their homes, once their residences are cleared by government. As part of the agreement to home quarantine, travellers have to wear an electronic monitoring wristband.
Lawmakers on Friday approved amendments to the Public Health Law, including an increase in the fine for breach of isolation regulations from $1,000 to $10,000 and the prison term from six months to two years. Additionally, a continuing offence after conviction incurs a fine of $500 for each day of infraction.
The law changes, piloted by Health Minister Dwayne Seymour, were approved late Friday on second reading in the Legislative Assembly. The amended legislation will now move to committee stage, before passage.
Seymour, in presenting the proposed amendments, said the aim of the hefty fines was to deter people in home isolation from breaking the regulations and putting the wider population at risk for community spread of COVID-19.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean said he agreed there is a need for penalties, but found that $10,000 was excessive, suggesting instead a fine of $3,000.
McLean also argued that the entire Public Health Law needed an overhaul to modernise the provisions.
He suggested that government consider legislation to specifically deal with scenarios related to the coronavirus pandemic, rather than making amendments to the Public Health Law.
“We are still in a crisis,” he said. “The pandemic is still raging and I believe the time has come to do bespoke legislation for this particular thing which will not require us to amend this piece of legislation to try to assist, because next week we may be coming back to amend another piece.”
He said all scenarios relating to the pandemic should be considered and drafted into a law that legislators can debate and put in place.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller welcomed the amendment to the penalties, but suggested that the wording be amended to specifically connect the increased fine to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seymour, in wrapping up the debate, pointed out that the suggested fine was the lowest that Cabinet agreed to, as the initial proposal was $50,000. That amount was whittled down to $25,000 and eventually government settled on $10,000, he said.
He added that the aim was one of deterrence, especially as Cayman opens its borders to travellers who have a high income bracket.
“We believe that our people here in the Cayman Islands, as we’ve seen during COVID-19, are law-abiding and orderly citizens. What we have to be mindful of is the man or woman who arrives here who can easily afford to be at a hotel that costs them… $9,000 for quarantine. That $10,000 is a drop in the bucket,” he said.