PM: Cabinet minister isolated after COVID scare

A member of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s Cabinet, along with their family members, has gone into isolation for COVID-19.

Although he did not identify the Cabinet minister when he made the revelation at a virtual public meeting hosted by the People’s National Movement (PNM) on Tuesday night, Rowley said: “Today, one of my Cabinet colleagues isolated for COVID. The whole family is now isolated. COVID is still with us.”

Commenting on the pandemic’s impact across the Caribbean, Rowley said the situation in T&T was “a whole lot better than very many people that we know,” as more than 100,000 new cases and 14,000 deaths had been recorded in the region between July and September 12.

He said during an emergency meeting of Caricom Heads of Government on Monday to discuss the COVID-19 crisis, “some regional leaders had appealed for help and expressed concern that their very existence and their security are threatened and they needed help.”

“I was there from January to July and I knew at that time that we were in big trouble, but the report on Monday was that the trouble was here because even countries that thought they had control of the situation, inside a fortnight realised that they’d lost control of the situation,” he said.

Rowley said he is preparing for a meeting of world leaders which will be hosted by United States President Joseph Biden next week. He noted that since March, Caricom had raised the issue of vaccine availability and other concerns related to the pandemic.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister also defended his administration’s handling of the National Gas Company (NGC) Train 1 matter.

He claimed the opposition United National Congress had become a mouthpiece for foreign shareholders in the energy company and using a series of graphs, outlined several developments with the gas company dating back to the tenure of the People’s Partnership.

The PM said while Chief Whip David Lee had recently accused the PNM of treating NGC like a cash cow, between 2010 and 2015, the previous administration had drawn down approximately $16 billion in dividends from the company at a time when energy prices were high and there were no cash flow problems.

“They were splurging, there were contracts like mad all over the country,” he said.

The PM also noted that the large dividends were being accessed at a time of huge expenditure on projects like the controversial LifeSport programme.

Rowley also defended the tenure of NGC president Mark Loquan, whom he said was a patriot who had returned from abroad to serve in this country’s energy sector.