As the shortened work week began, people in the Caribbean were greeted with the news that current Caribbean Community Chairman and Trinidadian Prime Minister, Keith Rowley had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and his diagnosis has forced authorities there to scramble to contact trace and test dozens of people with whom he might have been in contact with in recent days.
Rowley’s announcement that he will remain in self isolation in sister isle, Tobago where he was holidaying until he recovers, means that he is now the third regional head of government after Prime Minister, John Brecino of Belize and President, Chan Santokhi of Suriname to have fallen victim in the past four months to the pandemic despite taking all the necessary precautions and perennially urging citizens to comply with preventative rules.
Rowley, 71, said he first started exhibiting flu-like symptoms on Monday and quickly opted to take a test. His result came hours after the national vaccination effort began in earnest across the country. Promising to lead by example, the PM was scheduled to be among the first to publicly take his shot but medical rules now mandate that he will have to wait at least six months to be vaccinated.
The trouble is with Rowley is that his family had also been in Tobago with him for most of last week and will now have to be confined to isolation at the official residence in Trinidad. They returned to the so-called mainland at the weekend. Tests are also being administered to bodyguards, household staff and others who would have interacted with the prime minister.
Since the announcement, he has received a slew of get well messages from supporters and colleagues. Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi said, “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.”
But the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) through legislator, Rud Indarsingh said, Rowley had been irresponsible in obeying COVID protocols.
“His illness has demonstrated that he hasn’t known what the COVID protocols should really have been and that he’s displayed a high level of indiscretion and indiscipline. One would have assumed that the government’s plans would have made us, especially him, safer from COVID but obviously that’s not the case. Also, despite our borders remaining closed, the prime minister contracted COVID. This suggests continued border closure isn’t a fool-proof measure and continues to be economically, socially and politically counter-productive,” Indarsingh told the Guardian.
As the twin-island state comes to grips with a sick prime minister who also nurses heart and hypertensive comorbidity issues, the situation in neighboring Guyana is also becoming one of major concern.
Authorities have recorded 17 deaths in the first week of April with six in one day at the weekend. Dozens of positive cases are being announced on the health ministry’s dashboard each day, but no lockdown or tighter measures have as yet been announced. Soldiers and police did their best to enforce 10.30 pm curfews over the Easter weekend, breaking up dozens of parties and functions with large, sometimes maskless gatherings.
Meanwhile, several bloc member nations have started to receive small shipments of Astra Zeneca vaccines through the umbrella Covax facility being administered by the Pan American Health Organization. Jamaica last recently became the first with nearly 15,000 doses while Barbados was among the latest, this week copping nearly 34,000 in addition to larger shipments it had received in recent weeks.