Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has described his contracting COVID-19 as a “humbling” experience, especially in light of the fact that it has already claimed millions of lives throughout the world.
“To test positive to a virus that has killed over half a million people in the neighbouring United States and millions around the world and for which there is no effective curative treatment once it takes over your body, is a very sobering thought and humbling experience,” Rowley said in response to texted questions from Guardian Media yesterday.
According to the last medical update from the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, Rowley was taken by Tobago Regional Health Authority doctors from the official Prime Minister’s residence in Blenheim to the Scarborough General Hospital for a scan to check his lung functions, before being returned to the residence to continue his isolation.
Another update earlier yesterday had said Rowley remained in isolation and “under the supervision of medical personnel,” adding he remained in “good spirits” and that his vital signs were stable.
“The necessary health protocols are being observed as it relates to the Prime Minister’s care,” that release said.
The statement added, “The Prime Minister and his family wish to thank all those who have expressed ‘Get Well’ wishes and continue to pray for his well being.”
Despite the diagnosis, the Prime Minister continues to work in isolation in Tobago while recovering and will chair today’s Cabinet meeting virtually and is also having a virtual meeting with international energy sector officials. He also held his planned virtual meeting with US Congresswoman Maxine Waters yesterday in his role as Caricom chairman.
An advisory on that meeting stated that Rowley and Waters, chairman of the United States’ House Committee on Financial Services, engaged in successful talks. The meeting was a follow-up to discussions held on March 25 on several issues of mutual interest, including access to COVID-19 vaccines, Venezuela, Haiti and other Caricom-related issues.
Today, Rowley will also meet virtually with Maarten Wetselaar (Director, Integrated Gas, Renewables and Energy Solutions, Shell Global) and Eugene Okpere (President and Country chair, Shell T&T). Energy Minister Franklin Khan and National Security’s Stuart Young are also expected to attend this meeting.
Yesterday, People’s National Movement sources also said Rowley was apprised of the explosion which occurred around 6.30 am at NiQuan Trinidad Ltd’s (Gas to Liquids ) plant in Pointe-a-Pierre. The PM launched the plant a month ago. (See pages 6 & 7)
Top past and present officials of PNM’s Tobago Council said they hadn’t met with him during his Tobago stay and didn’t know his condition.
Rowley is among 14 world leaders – from Britain’s Princes Charles to former US President Donald Trump – who have had COVID-19.
Yesterday, the PNM Women’s League also slammed the “usual suspects making offensive comments… social media charlatans, academic imposters, hysterical drama queens and failed politicians” on the PM’s diagnosis. The League stated that those “empleomaniacs” (sic) aren’t medical personnel and cannot pronounce on the PM’s health.
Several regional leaders have wished the Prime Minister a speedy recovery since his diagnosis was announced on Tuesday but the Opposition has been notably silent.
Asked if the UNC had an official statement on the Prime Minister’s condition yesterday, its PRO Kirk Meighoo answered in the negative.
“When we do we will let you know,” he said.
However, UNC party insiders shared a video that showed the Prime Minister at various meetings with members of his Cabinet. Party insiders claimed that it showed that the PM was not being honest when he said he has not met with Cabinet ministers for the past two weeks.
In the short clip, Rowley is seen on March 24, 14 days before he tested positive, on his way to meet with the President and on the same day meeting with Energy Minister Franklin Khan and the Heritage Petroleum board. The clip also shows him meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne the day after. Another picture showed the PM at Shouter Baptist celebrations on March 27 and at a media conference on COVID-19 which was also attended by National Security Minister Stuart Young and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh. The video also shows Rowley in Parliament on March 26.
Rowley defends self from UNC attack
PM Rowley is also defending his statement and stance about his whereabouts before he tested positive in the face of UNC attacks.
“I was talking about private meetings WITH ME, separate and apart from these known public events, all of which were already spoken to and about by me and the media,” the PM said.
“How the hell could I say that I was not in Parliament when the whole country sees me there. I spoke at the Baptist event in front of the media.
“I meet privately with Ministers on an ongoing basis. It was also being put out by these same UNC mischief-makers that since Ministers were in Tobago, they had secret meetings with me. I saw none of them and I met with none of them.”
He added, “It was that private or secret meeting WITH ME, in that context that I was talking about.”
He dismissed Meighoo’s reported wishes as “fumbling insincere mumblings of the accented” and said that it was seen for what it was, a sham.
“This nonsensical attack of calling me a liar with their self-pleasing misrepresentation is really the now typical official UNC response steeped in their hatred and nastiness,” Rowley said.
“This country will always be smeared by these interventions which some people think will sanitise and make them acceptable in the political arena. What a pity.”
Rowley said he was actually glad to see “how carefully and thoroughly” the UNC scrutinises him and his actions.
“Maybe if they were so diligent with the last Prime Minister, much of the country’s money would still be in the Treasury to help in this COVID fight and many of them would not be before the court or answering to the police for taxpayers money,” Rowley said.
“I could live with my actions, I hope they could live with theirs.”