Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivers his victory speech at Balisier House on election night.

Gail Alexander

Government members are on heightened COVID alert.

This, after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was tested for COVID-19 following exposure on August 10 to someone who tested positive for the virus.

Rowley’s test was negative.

Rowley, who revealed the situation around noon yesterday on his Facebook page, said he has been advised to self-quarantine.

His announcement followed former UNC MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh’s confirmation on Thursday that he (Gopeesingh) has COVID-19.

Also yesterday Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner confirmed he’ll be testing for COVID-19 after two of his employees tested positive for the virus.

Rowley stated on his Facebook page yesterday, “It came to my attention, last night that on Monday 10th, I was exposed to someone who later tested positive for Covid-19.”

“I have been tested and the results are negative. Out of an abundance of caution I have been advised to remain in quarantine at home until next Monday when the full fourteen-day period would have expired.”

“Given the circumstances under which we all now live I once again take this opportunity to appeal to ALL citizens to each do their part to help fight this virus by strictly following the health instructions of regular attentive hand washing and sanitization, physical distancing and no congregation in groups above five persons and additionally most importantly wear a mask once outside the home or in an enclosed space which is being shared at close quarters.

“With the discipline that is expected of us together, we can fight and beat the uncontrolled expansion of this virus.”

This will be Rowley’s second self- quarantine. He had also quarantined when he returned from a Ghana-London trip in early March.

PNM officials couldn’t shed light on where the person who tested positive might have been. They said strict COVID protocols were followed at Balisier House where Rowley was on election night.

There’s been no word on the rest of the Rowley family and quarantining. Rowley’s wife Sharon was at his side on election night at Balisier House. Their eldest daughter and her family had also been resident with them at the Diplomatic Centre. The family was also at President’s House for Wednesday’s swearing-in function.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh didn’t reply yesterday on the situation.

The Whitehall office which Rowley used was being sanitised yesterday, Government officials said, as the staff was sent home. It was projected that the Office of the Prime Minister at St Clair will also be sanitised.

At President’s House, Communication Adviser Cheryl Lala confirmed sanitising was being done – with fogging- in an arrangement that was organised prior to Wednesday’s function. She said the planning of the function was in the works for more than three weeks for whoever won the election. Planning was done with the County Medical officer who went through all rooms and recommended what should be done to have the function under COVID protocols.

Lala said apart from the MPs who sat in the ballroom where the Oath of Office was administered to appointees, MPs were seated in three other rooms. Everyone who entered the compound was temperature-tested and sanitisation was done. Anyone sneezing, coughing or showing symptoms wouldn’t have been allowed to enter, Lala added.

Ministers respond

Communication Minister Symon de Nobriga yesterday said that all safety protocols were observed at President’s House on Wednesday when the prime minister MPs took their oaths.

Several Ministers such as Colm Imbert, Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and other front-liners who were in the same room with Rowley didn’t answer yesterday on whether they’d been tested or will be.

However, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said she was tested for the virus after recently feeling flu-ish and was found to be negative.

Robinson-Regis said, “I’ve had no suspicion that I was exposed to anyone with COVID, but at one point after the campaign, I started feeling a bit flu-ish. I had no fever but felt headachy and some dizzyness so out of an abundance of caution I did go and have the COVID test and it was negative.”

“Since the campaign, I have been more or less inside. I haven’t gone to (Planning) yet, but I know the permanent secretaries are very diligent. The Social Development Ministry where I was, did have someone in the Accounts section who’d tested positive. They shut the unit down and all staff were quarantined and tested. Also, a messenger there tested positive and more tests were done. But they’re following protocols.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi had sat by himself, in social distanced spacing in the front row at President’s House, abreast of Rowley’s seat. He said he’s limited circulation among others to minimal post-election and practices all protocols.

“I have a personal responsibility to everyone – ministry, relatives, people around me. My mask is on all of the time, I examine all the literature. None of us is taking this lightly,” Al-Rawi said.

He added, “In this situation, one should first try to maintain one’s health – keep your immune system as strong as possible. It’s no secret I take my health seriously. I exercise regularly, follow medical advice and have a careful diet.”

“What hurts me however is I haven’t been able to see my constituents personally to give them a huge thank-you as I want to. Many have reached out to me. We discussed it in a larger circle recently and the Prime Minister asked us keep away from activities like large gatherings. But when it is safe, I’ll see them.”

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon who’d headed the PNM’s Chaguanas East campaign, said, “During elections, we were very COVID sensitive, I haven’t received any call from Health about being exposed to any primary contact. But I’m observing precautions strenuously. I have my Vitamin C right here next to me. I’m over 60 and I have my challenges as we all do from time to time.”

Social Development Minister Donna Cox added, “I wasn’t in contact with the Prime Minister so I don’t need tests. But I’m observing protocols extra sternly since my mother, 88 is very high risk with key illnesses. The Ministry’s also observing protocols strictly as they had come issues with the virus before.”