COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 8
Haiti had its first two cases of COVID-19 confirmed on March 19, 2020. An order published on March 19, 2020, announced a state of health emergency and set basic guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus. An order dated April 20, 2020, extended the state of health emergency for another month.
On May 21, 2020, President Jovenel Moïse published in Haiti’s official gazette, Le Moniteur, a Decree dated May 20, 2020, that set national methods for slowing down the spread of the pandemic by adopting preventive measures related to hygiene and social distancing. The Decree also established general rules for protecting the public from pandemics. President Moïse, in the Decree, cited the Haitian Constitution, three major human rights instruments (The American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), the two aforementioned orders, and specific statutes (including one from 1886!) as authorizing the imposition of the measures set in the Decree.
Specific provisions of the Decree cover as follows:
Articles 3-5 address drivers. The Decree requires wearing of masks or personal protection equipment (PPE) in public transport by conductors.
Art. 6 prohibits assemblies of more than five people under pain of fine (3,000 gourdes), imprisonment (five days), or community service (15 days of work in the general public interest), as determined by the Municipal Council.
Art. 8 states that all individuals must wear masks or PPEs in public places with similar penalties for failure to do so, with the exception of children who are less than five years old, have breathing difficulties, or have other necessary reasons not to wear a mask.
Art. 9 establishes a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to the pandemic/epidemic with similar penalties as the other articles. Excepted from the curfew are journalists, on-duty law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, firefighters, ambulance drivers, and other categories of authorized professionals and persons.
Arts. 10-11 clarify that off-duty law enforcement officers are subject to the curfew like other citizens. The penalties for breaching curfew are higher – 5,000 gourdes, 10 days in jail, and 30 days of community service.
Art. 12 states that anyone who has come in contact with someone who is sick with the coronavirus must quarantine themselves or report the contact within 48 hours.
Art. 13 prohibits all forms of stigmatization or discrimination under pain of sanctions.
Art. 14-15 prohibit taking photos of, videoing, or capturing the image of the sick with, or those dead from COVID-19. The penalties for breach are 10,000 gourdes and 20,000 gourdes respectively, and 15 days in prison, and 30 days of community service.
Art. 16 is another personal privacy provision that prohibits publication of a COVID-19 patient’s test results without their authorization.
Art. 17 prohibits removing a COVID-19 positive person except to the hospital.
Art. 18 fines a person who willfully (voluntarily) gives someone COVID-19 20,000 gourdes.
Art. 19 prohibits unhealthy and disrespectful behavior towards healthcare personnel at COVID-19 treatment centers.
Under Art. 20, the use of firearms at COVID-19 treatment centers is prohibited except as authorized by the Chief of Police.
Art. 21 mandates that workers who have COVID-19 symptoms return home or go to the hospital.
Art. 26 renews the state of public health emergency declared by the March 19, 2020 order and renewed by the April 20, 2020 order by a complementary period of two (2) months counting from the date of publication of the Decree.
Art. 27 asserts that the present Decree abrogates all prior laws and decree-laws.
Since the publication of the Decree, there has been relaxation of other COVID-19 preventive measures and restrictions. For example, President Moïse declared Haiti’s airports and borders open as of June 30, 2020 in a televised speech. Haiti’s Prime Minister, Joseph Jouthe declared the state of public health emergency lifted as of July 20, 2020. Schools and universities were reopened on August 10, 2020.
By Lyonette Louis-Jacques