Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said that contrary to claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar he did not have any symptoms on the Friday or Saturday before he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

On Friday, Persad-Bissessar and United National Congress (UNC) MPs boycotted the Parliamentary sitting at which the Anti-Gang Bill was debated. They claimed they were concerned that Rowley had been in the Chamber within the 14 days that he was diagnosed with the coronavirus and the room had not been properly sanitised.

According to information from the Office of the Prime Minister, on Easter Monday, April 5, Rowley began displaying flu-like symptoms and was tested the next day. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 that day and immediately went into isolation.

“It falls to me to confirm that I had no symptoms on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th March as untruthfully presented by the Opposition Leader in her quest to politicise my medical condition,” Dr Rowley said.

“My flu-like symptoms first appeared on the night of April 5th. I was tested and confirmed positive for COVID-19 on the morning of April 6th.”

The Prime Minister said according to the standard protocol once symptoms are observed the medical team “will check contacts two to three days prior”.

“This means that the contacts in Parliament on 26th March and at a press conference on the 27th March do not qualify under the protocols for tracing,” he said.

“That is why she had to lie to make the case that there was a breach of the protocols and breaking of laws by the Government officials. What the Opposition Leader has disgracefully done is play politics with lies and my medical record which I have voluntarily made public in my continuing openness with the population of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Dr Rowley said contrary to the UNC’s “misinformation” there was no need for extra sanitizing of Parliament to allow them to return since what they claim never occurred.

“This being so, it is now clear that it is when she returns to the Parliament, that hopefully it will be sanitized so that decency and the truth may find a seat amongst them. The country will certainly be better off for it,” he said.

Rowley’s statement came hours after epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said the same thing.

At the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 update yesterday Hinds said contact tracing for Dr Rowley would only include those who were in contact with him two days before he presented with symptoms. The Prime Minister was diagnosed on Tuesday and therefore only those around him from the Sunday before would have to be tested.

“We are aware that the symptoms he had would have started around the 5th, the people who would have been in contact with him at the press conference on the 27th or in Parliament on the day before would fall long before the onset of symptoms, well outside that two-day window that we give when they could have been infectious,” Hinds explained.

He said subsequent questions about contact tracing those who came into contact with the PM before April 6 did not apply.

“If the symptoms start on a given date, we move two days backwards and this is based on the updated and existing WHO (World Health Organisation) guidance for contact tracing,” he said.

Hinds said those in the PM’s presence before that date are not at risk of exposure.

Hinds clarification is timely as on Friday the Opposition refused to participate in debate on the Anti-Gang legislation claiming that the Prime Minister was seated in the Chamber on March 26 and the room had not been sanitised in keeping with COVID-19 regulations.

In a vaccine update, the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) has stopped its acquisition of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In February, T&T signed off on the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines through this facility.

The AMSP had initially made available to Caricom states a block of 1.5 million doses of vaccines and had confirmed receipt of T&T’s pre-order for 226,000 doses. The order included supplies from AstraZeneca.

“As far as I am aware there was never any firm commitment from the African Union. There were several discussion from multiple places,” Hinds said at first, which contradicted details given by the Government on the same issue in February.

He said the batches confirmed as coming into the country did not include a cache from the African Union. He returned to the issue with fresh information a short time later to clarify.

“We have a confirmed order that has not been unconfirmed since of 875,000 doses with 250,000 of those being from Pfizer and 625,000 from Johnson and Johnson. The sales contract is currently in the final stages of getting completed,” Hinds said.

On Friday, National Security Minister confirmed that he had been tested and found to be COVID-19 negative.

On Friday Guardian Media reached out to the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to ascertain whether he too had been tested. On Saturday, he texted that the question would be dealt with at the press conference but he did not attend.

In its 4 pm update, the Ministry of Health said there was one additional death and 59 new COVID-19 cases, taking the number of positive active cases to 513. The new cases were from samples taken between April 7 to 9.

To date, 7,146 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19.