PM holding his own after positive COVID test

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is said to be “holding his own” after testing positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

Rowley experienced flu-like symptoms on Monday and was subsequently tested for COVID-19, with the test coming back positive.

Yesterday, Rowley was said to be in isolation and under medical supervision at an undisclosed location in Tobago.

The PM’s positive COVID test came on the day when the long-awaited national vaccine rollout began, when Rowley himself was initially scheduled to be vaccinated.

Yesterday, however, Rowley assured Guardian Media that none of his Cabinet Ministers had been exposed to the virus, at least not by him.

“I have not been in the presence of any Minister for the last two weeks,” Rowley told Guardian Media in response to questions about other Cabinet ministers possibly being exposed.

Rowley was, however, at a news conference with Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh last Tuesday, when he warned the country that there could be another lockdown if the spike in numbers of COVID cases continued.

Deyalsingh received his scheduled AstraZeneca jab yesterday, as did President Paula-Mae Weekes and her 92-year-old mother.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported 22 new COVID cases. The PM was one of those new cases.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said yesterday that according to World Health Organization protocols, Rowley will now have to wait up to six months before being inoculated because of his infection.

Government sources yesterday said Rowley had spoken to some people yesterday morning, had sounded strong and was “holding his own.”

The Office of the Prime Minister announced his positive test yesterday morning. His illness followed a recent surge in COVID cases across the country.

Noting the situation and information that many people were planning Easter holiday-making and Tobago was due to experience large numbers of visitors for the Easter weekend, Rowley had last week told citizens to follow COVID protocols, saying “You have been warned!”

Rowley’s said to have gone to Tobago last Tuesday.

Government hasn’t said where he is but sources said he was at his Mason Hall farm up to recently. Officials said primary and secondary contact tracing is being done in Trinidad as well as in Tobago.

Sources said Rowley “took in” on Monday night but was “up yesterday morning talking and sounding normal.”

It was also announced that Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis has been quarantined until April 16 after being exposed on Good Friday to the primary contact of a recent COVID case.

This is the second recent health issue for Rowley, 71, in the last three months. On January 8, he was hospitalised at the Westshore Private Hospital in Cocorite after having discomfort and chest pains. He subsequently had an angiogram and angioplasty and was sent home on January 10. He chaired a Caricom leaders’ virtual conference the day after.

Over 2016 to 2019, Rowley also had successful prostate and heart tests in the United States – but was warned about soft plaque in an artery. It was expected he’d have a check-up in early 2020 but borders were closed after COVID-19 hit in March 2020.

Yesterday, People’s National Movement Women’s League head Camille Robinson-Regis called on the nation to keep the PM in their prayers.

“We ask that the nation lift the honourable leader of this country up in prayer,” she said in a press release.

She also called for a national day of prayer, noting Rowley had once asked for such a day.

“The PNM Women’s League wishes the Prime Minister and political leader a speedy recovery and is confident that stellar medical care will be provided by the nation’s doctors,” Robinson-Regis said.

“We urge the citizenry to continue to be vigilant in this fight against COVID-19. We remind each and everyone to practice social distancing and to wear masks as recommended. To those eligible for the vaccine, we remind you to take the necessary steps to ensure you make an appointment to receive it.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi added, “All of us in the PNM, San Fernando West and the AG’s Office send the Prime Minister love and prayers for quick recovery. We ask the Lord to keep him safe.

“He’s a frontline worker and we often take for granted the extent of the public interaction he’s called upon to do in the performance of his duties and which he’s done with vibrancy and gusto in these very difficult times.”

PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing, in the party’s message, said the party “lifts the Prime Minister up in love … our leader has repeatedly emphasised the virus doesn’t discriminate between party membership, social status, profession, age or any other social demographic or construct.”

Greetings also came from World Health Organisation head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who also alerted the WHO of Caricom chairman Rowley’s illness and British High Commissioner Harriet Cross.