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Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has praised Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for his leadership in managing the COVID-19 outbreak in T&T.

This while Dr Rowley called on the WHO to ensure equitable access to vaccines for smaller countries like those within the Caribbean Region.

Dr Ghebreyesus’ commendation came during a WHO media briefing on Thursday morning in Geneva after Dr Rowley made a virtual contribution. He was representing both T&T and the Caricom region as its current chairman.

“I would also like to recognise that Trinidad and Tobago- your country- has done very well in this pandemic and this is because of your leadership,” the WHO director-general told Dr Rowley.

Dr Ghebreyesus also credited and commended the successful management of the outbreak to the non-medical interventions such as the Public Health Regulations and restrictions.

“Even without vaccines, using public health solutions we can see from your own experience that this virus can be controlled. So thank you so much for your leadership your excellency and I welcome your solidarity,” he said.

The WHO director-general also expressed his pleasure with the country’s first doses of the vaccine being administered to healthcare workers on Wednesday.

In his statement during the briefing moments before, Dr Rowley renewed calls for the organisation to convene a global meeting to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries—especially smaller ones like those in the Caribbean region.

“We are to remind that we need the systems of fairness, caring and sharing to work according to a plan so that we can all come out of this dreadful experience guided by principles of equity and compassion,” he said.

“Director-General, small states such as ours have made and continue to make huge sacrifices in an endeavour to protect our populations from the worst ravages of the virus.

“We anxiously anticipate the promised relief and general benefits that a successful early vaccination program can bring to each of us. All we ask as members of the family of nations is that we not be forgotten, ignored or worse, taken advantage of in this business of life and death.”

On January 13, Caricom issued a statement calling for a global summit “in the context of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ACT-A Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.” One of the goals of a meeting of the Accelerator Facilitation Council in February was to discuss and provide advice to accelerate fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“The reality is that small states will find it difficult to compete in the market place to ensure equitable access for vaccines. Given the transmissibility of the virus, all countries are vulnerable and should work together,” the release said then.

In response to a question during the briefing, Dr Rowley also gave the assurance that all within the country’s borders will be given the opportunity to be inoculated- especially Venezuelan migrants.

“We in Trinidad and Tobago, we have a fairly significant number of migrants within our border and we acknowledge the nature of the problem and we’d only be successful in protecting our local population if everybody within our border gets the same kind of treatment,” he said.

“To have a migrant population that is not covered by our concerns and our response is to maintain a population within which the virus could be a permanent feature and from which it can be transmitted continuously to everybody else.”