Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, MP, moves a motion that the House take note of the Statement by the President under section 9(1) of the Constitution setting out the specific grounds on which the decision to declare the existence of a state of public emergency was based, during the sitting of the Parliament, yesterday.

Renuka Singh

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is standing by his statement that it was the candlelight and prayer vigils for murdered court clerk Andrea Bharatt that fuelled the spike in COVID-19 numbers and not the Easter weekend visits to Tobago.

The Prime Minister yesterday produced a chart which showed that the increase in cases started its slow but steady climb in April, two weeks after the last set of action, marches and vigils held for Bharatt.

In his defence, Rowley said that the increase in numbers started after the vigils and multiplied to massive numbers after that initial increase.

During the debate on the motion on matters pertaining to the State of Emergency on Monday, the Prime Minister said it was the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) that organised transport for people to attend the nationwide prayer and candlelight vigils following the gruesome murder of 23-year-old Bharatt.

“I don’t make the data,” Rowley said in response to questions yesterday.

Rowley said just because he did not bring this information to the public before the debate does not mean it did not happen.

“Go and look at the charts and graphs and see when the significant increase started, not where it passed, not where it reached,” he said.

According to the chart provided by the PM, when the first vigil for Bharatt was held on February 3 there were eight cases and by February 12, the day of her funeral, over 100 vigils were held and there were five cases.

The period of vigils and marches was between February 4 and April 1.

By April 14, two weeks after the vigils were halted, cases surged to 85.

“These are the daily published events and infection levels. Study them carefully and see if you can determine the start of the rise that rose to where we are now,” he said.

Rowley said that there was a two-week lag between high exposure and the community spread outcome.

“Go back to July, August-September 2020 and see what the chart says about the elections events last year and how it went in late August and September 2020,” he said.

The Opposition has often cited Rowley’s pre-Easter invitation to the T&T population. At that time, Rowley told the country that Tobago was the place to be for the long Easter weekend.

Rowley is also dismissing the suggestion that he knew the vigils caused the spike but still invited people to Tobago.

“When did I ever stop pleading with people not to congregate? Are they claiming they were not hearing that?” Rowley asked.

“They heard me say come to Tobago but they didn’t hear me say it is not where you are for Easter but it is what you do there, don’t congregate, no party, wear your masks, sanitise. They did not hear me say that?” he said.

“How stupid,” he said.

Rowley said there were over 700 cases a few days ago.

“So according to them, you count 14 days before that and whatever was going on then is what would have caused the 700?” he asked.

“It is an ongoing and accelerating process, so their analysis is not based on science, it is based on politics and preconceptions.”

He added, “I am only responding to questions put to me yesterday (Monday) about how come we lost our good position of February.”

He directed people to look at the end of February into March, when the spike started a steady incline.

“After that, it multiplies and there is no 14-day limit to multiplication,” he said.

The Prime Minister, however, did not respond to questions about why he chose to only reveal on Monday that the vigils were the root cause of the start of the spike in COVID-19 numbers.

Monday was the first time the link was made between the vigils and the spiking numbers.