Javorne Matthews, a 44-year-old woman who entered a commercial bank in Kingstown shortly after breaking a COVID-19 related quarantine, was fined $1,000 at the Kingstown Magistrate Court on Tuesday.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett ordered that Matthews pay the fine by December 15, or serve one month in prison.
Matthews was charged with contravening an order by Medical Officer of Health Dr. Roger Duncan, requiring her to quarantine herself. The charge was laid under Section 27, Subsection Y Chapter 300 of the Public Health Act.
Matthews, a resident of Spring, Biabou, had initially pleaded not guilty, but changed her plea to guilty on returning to the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
In presenting the facts, prosecutor Curlene Samuel told the Court that on October 10, Matthews, a national of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, returned to her homeland from Miami on an American Airline flight.
In keeping with the protocols put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, she was required to quarantine herself for 14 days, five at an approved facility and the remaining nine at home.
Matthews quarantined at an approved facility for the five days, and on the day that was complete, instead of going home to complete the quarantine, she went to the St. Vincent Cooperative Bank to effect a transaction.
During the process, her ATM card stuck in the machine and in reporting the problem to a customer service representative, revealed that she was supposed to be in quarantine.
The customer service representative then told her that she was not supposed to be there, but Matthews proceeded to join the line at the bank and completed her transaction.
The police was informed and Matthews was arrested and subsequently charged. The bank had to be closed temporarily to allow for sanitization.
Matthews lawyer- Michelle Fife told the Court that her client did not deliberately flirt with the laws, but that she did not understand the procedure.
“She completed the first five days. She was seeking some monetary assistance, because she has a child,” Fife explained, noting further that her client was a law- abiding citizen, up to that point, and she was not infected by the coronavirus.
But Dr. Duncan, who was at hand to assist the Court, said he personally spoke to the defendant.
Before the penalty was handed down, Prosecutor Samuel told the Court that based on information received, Matthews was scheduled to be here until November 9, but she was planning to leave the country this weekend, to which the police was alerted.
Further checks by the prosecution on Tuesday, revealed that Matthews had a flight booked for Saturday, but that was cancelled recently.
But the defendant told the Court, “I was supposed to leave last Saturday, and I called and my flight was rescheduled, so I don’t know who is calling from the airport giving such false news.”
Matthews said she was not currently working, and would need some time to pay the $1,000 fine.
“St. Vincent is still her home,” the Magistrate underscored, before ordering the woman to pay the fine by December 15.
A person could be fined up to $2,000 for each day they break the quarantine or confined for six months.