Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at Eid-ul-Adha celebrations at the San Fernando Jama masjid on Friday. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

Despite an increase in locally spread COVID-19 cases, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says the August 10 General Election will go on.

This, as the country recorded five new cases on Friday, bringing the count to 169.

Speaking to reporters after attending Eid-ul-Adha celebrations at the San Fernando Jama Masjid on Friday morning, Dr Rowley said he had warned the population repeatedly about taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but some people had become complacent.

“The last time I spoke on this matter, I kept saying to the country we are still in danger, but unfortunately, there were some people who wanted to behave as though it had passed.  You were constantly reminded that danger was ahead, and we are not inventing this,” Rowley said.

He commended the officials at the masjid for adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“I am happy to see discipline. I observe that upstairs (the masjid) everything was well organized, the floor marked, everyone was observing social distancing, and everyone was masked.  This is the kind of discipline that I would like to see in the rest of the country,” Rowley said.

Asked whether the government will consider postponing elections if the cases continue to climb, Rowley said:

“We will have our elections, there is no question about that and we will continue to be observant and we guided by the information and the science. We are not taking decisions based on panic or surmising.”

He explained that the government was managing the COVID-19 crisis in a reasonable and structured manner.

“There will be no panic response. We have had a measured and sensible response governed by the science and that will continue. We are not surprised by it. We are prepared to deal with that and that is what has given us the strength and confidence. We are prepared and that preparation is the only sensible response,” Dr Rowley said.

Asked whether there will be the closure of bars and cinemas to prevent spread, Dr Rowley said:

“We will make any such decision based on the facts of the circumstance. I am going to a meeting now. We meet constantly on this matter. We will look at the situation and the facts and then we will make balanced decisions. We are not making decisions vie qui vie.”

Asked whether CARICOM or Commonwealth observers will be here for the election, Dr Rowley said:

“As of this morning we had no advice that they are coming. They had difficulty putting it together and later in the day, I will declare what will happen. We did make the request, but it appears there are difficulties from all colleagues around the Commonwealth,” he added.

He reiterated that there was no need to panic and once he meets with his team of medical experts, he will inform the rest of the country about the government’s plans in a press conference carded for 2 pm.

“I will tell you what our decisions are based on the new information that we are having. Let’s not jump ahead. The worst thing we can do is panic and make decisions based on panic. Let’s make level-headed decisions even when things look like they are worsening. Your best decision is to maintain your composure and stay with the facts,” Dr Rowley added.

The political leader of the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP), Phillip Edward Alexander, had called this week for a postponement of the election.

Under Section 34 of the Representation of the People Act, President Paula Mae-Weekes can postpone the election for a period of 30 days.