Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during his early morning interview on Tobago's Channel 5, on Monday 4 January 2021. (Image courtesy Tobago Channel 5)

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says that managing the pandemic remains government’s priority as he warned that reopening the borders could lead to a reversal of the gains made so far.

In an interview on Tobago’s Channel 5 yesterday, Dr Rowley said that there are some 330,000 people holding T&T passports around the world but said management of the pandemic requires ensuring the country’s health system is not overwhelmed.

Asked to comment on allegations that both his daughter and the son of the Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi were favoured above many others to come home in time for Christmas, he said no favour was shown to either.

“The government had taken a decision to bring home all students abroad and all efforts were being made to bring home students, so Al-Rawi’s son came home with many other students.”

The Prime Minister said although his daughter wanted to come home a long time ago and she was unable to, as she is based in New York where there was a high level of infection. However, he said she applied for exemption in the last quarter of last year and she was successful.

“I did not go into the department and tell anybody put my daughter on a flight to come home —if there is anybody who has a problem with my daughter coming home—I am busy they could keep that.”

Dr Rowley said at the onset of the pandemic the government sought to bring home all people who were surprised by the border closure but that some of them were in countries where the borders were closed which provided several challenges.

“By July we thought we had dealt with the majority of those people but then there was another set of people, the ones who live abroad and who now decide that they want to come home.”

He said originally the government estimated that there were between 5,000 and 7,000 people who were surprised by the border closure. He said the figure now stands at 9,000 people.

Another area of concern, he said, was that the majority of those people are coming from countries with high levels of infection.

Dr Rowley said while he understands that some people abroad may be facing difficulties, the government has provided funding to assist those who may be facing financial difficulties.