Covid-19, the great leveller, has struck Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
According to his Facebook page, the Prime Minister began experiencing flu-like symptoms on Sunday evening and was subsequently tested for the virus. “Dr Rowley is in isolation and is under medical supervision”, the post which went up around 9.52 a.m. yesterday said.
The Prime Minister is 71 years old, he is hypertensive and has a heart condition, which puts him in the vulnerable group. Thus far, he does not have any of the severe symptoms.
However, he will not be able to take the Covid-19 vaccine as he was originally scheduled to do yesterday. The Prime Minister will have to wait until October to be vaccinated, in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that anyone who tests positive must wait six months before being inoculated.
The PM has been holding virtual Cabinet meetings and other meetings, with Parliament sessions being among the few in-person gatherings that he attends, Government officials said.
The Prime Minister flew to Tobago commercially last Monday and has been there for the past week. He had been joined by his family, but they left Tobago on Sunday.
At present he is in isolation at the official residence in Tobago where he is expected to stay for the entire duration of his isolation. He is separated from the rest of his family who are in isolation at the official residence in Trinidad.
It is understood that the Prime Minister’s security, his household staff, as well as any other primary contacts he may have had, would be contact-traced and also be tested for the virus.
A number of Cabinet members who were in the sister isle for the long weekend in their private capacities said there was no ministerial gathering of any sort.
Those who spent the weekend in Tobago with their families included Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and National Security Minister Stuart Young. However, Robinson-Regis said she had no contact with the Prime Minister because she was there on a private holiday with her family.
PM: Thanks for the prayers
Rowley told the Express yesterday he was heartened by the outpouring and kind wishes he had received since announcing his Covid-positive status.
Rowley, who is the first Caricom leader to receive a Covid-positive test result, said: “I have received many prayerful words and kind wishes from my Caricom and other colleagues, my constituents and very many concerned citizens and friends at home and abroad.
I am very heartened by their outpourings of kindness and caring.
On my own behalf and that of my family, who incidentally spent the weekend with me in Tobago and are now primary contacts in isolation, we thank all the very many persons who reached out with their kind thoughts and prayers.
“We are greatly bolstered in this period of difficulty by your kindness, and we too pray for you that you will be safe at all times and that eventually, we will all overcome this very dangerous period of our lives.”
The Prime Minister stressed: “Please, once more, I implore all of you to not give up. Be responsible always and follow the health guidelines. I have been going out of my way to be responsible and to comply. In fact, during the pre-Easter and Easter weekend, I thought that I was particularly careful and semi-isolated, spending time only with family and close associates. Even so, I got Covid.
I tell you all this not that you will see futility in the effort (to be cautious), but to ask that whatever we are doing, we must do more because my experience demonstrates that anyone can become infected, no matter who we are or how safe we feel.
“We just have to keep respecting the challenges and continue doing our individual best to give ourselves the best chance to escape the horrors of this dangerous virus.”
The Prime Minister added that he had received good wishes from MP Dr Lackram Bodoe and former St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar. He extended a special thank you to his present colleague and his former and present colleague in the Opposition.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday expressed his wishes for a speedy recovery for Rowley. While Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley noted that Rowley, who is chairman of Caricom, had “regrettably tested positive...I would therefore want to express our deepest concerns for his urgent and quick recovery...this just drives home the point that until we deal with this (pandemic) with all people, we haven’t dealt with it”.
She said she trusted and prayed that WHO’s continued works and World Health Day today “will remind us of the urgency for co-ordinated action and of the urgency of acting together.”
Preposterous, outlandish rumours
In response to questions from the Express, Robinson-Regis described as “preposterous and totally outlandish” comments that the Prime Minister was afraid to take the vaccine and therefore had concocted the story of having the virus.
She said the Prime Minister said from day one he was very willing to take the vaccine, and he had also encouraged people to take the vaccine, especially those people with comorbidities who are most likely to be severely impacted by a Covid infection.
“He has always followed the science and he was very willing to take the vaccine, and if the science says the vaccines can assist in dealing with the pandemic, the Prime Minister and all members of the Cabinet are willing to take the vaccine,” Robinson-Regis said.
Robinson-Regis said the Prime Minister had been very careful. She said, for example, after the presentation of the Budget and the Budget debate, there are normally gatherings, and the Prime Minister said those gatherings would not be held.
“He has been extremely careful. We have virtual Cabinet meetings and have been doing that since the advent of Covid,” she said.
Robinson-Regis said there was no Cabinet exposure because the Cabinet did not travel to Tobago as a Cabinet. “Different ministers came on their own. The Cabinet was not in a retreat,” she said, adding that she had no contact with the PM.