One of the key tools in Ascension’s ability to combat the threat posed by COVID-19 is effectively managing arrivals from affected areas. This is achieved by arrivals at Ascension being placed into compulsory isolation for a period prescribed by the Senior Medical Officer, backed by powers provided for in the Public Health (Coronavirus)(Temporary Provisions) Regulations 2020.
These regulations were introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and contained a number of provisions intended to protect the island against the threat posed by COVID-19. An offence was created to deter people under such measures from absconding from any isolation measures they were under without reasonable excuse. Due to the risk of contamination from COVID-19, at the time the regulations were drafted it was not considered that it would be necessary to create an offence deterring individuals from entering a property where someone else was isolating.
However, following an incident in October 2020 AIG reviewed the regulations and as a consequence two new offences have been introduced as of Monday 11 January.
The first offence, the new regulation 23A, is one of knowingly going onto land where a person is isolating or to which a person is restricted and carries a £5,000 fine. It is already an offence for the person who is isolating to abscond, but not for any other person to enter that property.
This offence covers not just the building but also the surrounding land of the property, such as the garden, where one or more people are in compulsory isolation. This also extends to land where a person who is subject to restrictions short of compulsory isolation is living or working.
The second offence, the new regulations 18A and 23B, have been introduced to ensure that potential absconders and those potentially committing the new offence of entering an isolation property are reported promptly to the police. This only applies to individuals who hold a suspicion themselves based on first-hand information, and does not therefore apply to those who hold a suspicion based on information received from others (for example rumours or comments overheard in public). This offence carries a fine of £500.
The combination of these regulations, other public health measures introduced by AIG and the ongoing observance of these by members of the public have so far proved effective in successfully safeguarding the community from the threat of COVID-19. COVID-19 remains a significant threat to Ascension and our community, and as such all members of the public are urged to continue complying with the important protocols and procedures in place during this time.
The Public Health (Coronavirus)(Temporary Provisions) Regulations 2020 can be viewed on the website of the St Helena Attorney General.