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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, left, with MP for Point Fortin Kennedy Richards Jr, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Minister in the Ministry of Education Lisa Morris-Julian plant pak choi in the green house at the new Chatham Government Primary School yesterday.

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Children who have stayed home for 18 months during the pandemic can face negative long term effects, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

This is why he said parents must make an attempt to vaccinate all children over 12 and get them back to school.

Rowley made the comment while delivering the feature address at the opening of the $24 million Chatham Government Primary School.

Defending the way his Government has managed the pandemic, Rowley said parents must be responsible and vaccinate themselves and their children who are over 12.

“I want them (students) to be here soon. Every parent is known to want the best for his or her child. What would be our position if we do not protect the children? The Delta virus is unlike the original virus. It is affecting a significant number of young people, people in their prime,” Rowley warned.

He also said anyone who believed that things were better off under the United National Congress did not know what they are talking about.

Responding to a recent poll where 39 per cent of respondents said things are not as good as they used to be, Rowley said the pandemic and a $20 billion drop in revenue from 2015 will contribute to that feeling.

“We have made the right decisions along the way. Some decisions were painful but had to be made. During this difficult period, we have kept the flag flying. In the energy sector, all the workforce has been out. From the beginning of the pandemic to now, we have never shut down any aspect of the energy sector. Manufacturing was shut down for a while. Today, the retail sector opened,” he said.

Rowley also revealed his Government has spent $1.5 billion on the School Repair Programme since 2015.

“The Government in the first year of administration borrowed $14 billion to close the gap between revenue and expenditure. Having already spent $1.5 billion in the programme, we are contracted to another $2 billion in construction and $1 billion to outfit the schools,” he said.

He also lamented that a secondary school in this programme was condemned.

“It is unusable. The estimated cost was $288 million. One of the most painful days for me as Prime Minister is coming face to face with a government programme that was supposed to cost $9 million but cost $447 million. The difference between the $9m and $447m is naked unadulterated criminal activity,” Rowley charged.

He said rural communities like Chatham were vulnerable to the virus.

“Four rural areas are in the forefront of driving the numbers, county Victoria, Caroni, St George East to Tobago,” he said.

He noted that vaccinated people stood a better chance of overcoming the virus.

“The bulk of people who are dying around the world are not vaccinated. You choose to be good, you choose to be religious. It’s the same logic with the virus. Each mutation produces a different strain of the virus. Particularly in those in rural areas, the numbers are very high. The danger is great,” he said.

Meanwhile, MP for Point Fortin Kennedy Richards Jr urged the community to give their children an early Christmas gift by vaccinating them. He said children should be given an opportunity for their fullest dreams to be realised.

“We can see more athletes, world changers coming out of Chatham. I want to encourage teachers and parents to reaffirm their passion and see the best in the students,” Richards said.