PNM Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine was sworn in as a councillor in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on Wednesday, replacing Dr Agatha Carrington who resigned on February 28.
She joins fellow councillors Nadine Stewart-Phillips (Tourism, Culture and Transportation Secretary) and Kwesi Des Vignes (Infrastracture, Quarries and the Environment).
Davidson-Celestine will also take up the portfolio of Secretary in the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, which was also left vacant after Carrington's resignation.
Davidson-Celestine's appointment as health secretary comes amid numerous challenges within the sector, not the least of which is the island's preparedness to fight the coronavirus.
Speaking minutes after taking her oath of office at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough, an upbeat Davidson-Celestine said Tobago's covid19 response would be among her priorities in the division.
"My first order of business, I will be going into the Division of Health and Wellness as the secretary. And so one of the first things will be to meet with the members of staff, especially those who are dealing with the preparation for corona (sic), in the event that we should have a case here in Tobago, to see where things are and to see where we need to be in terms of ensuring that we are on top of our game going forward."
The oath was administered by Presiding Officer Vanessa Cutting-Thomas during a special sitting in the Assembly Chamber.
Davidson-Celestine, who recently ended her stint as TT's Ambassador to Costa Rica, said the coronavirus threat would likely be considered when determining if Tobago would host its annual jazz festival, next month.
"One of the things we have to look at if we are targeting international guests, of course, there will be an element of risk there coming in there. And we have to ensure we have our protocols in place here in Tobago so that in the event that anyone comes in with any sort of symptoms, if it is that we are staging the jazz festival, that we are able to treat with it within the shortest possible time frame."
Davidson-Celestine said she observed that several countries had already cancelled activities that would have attracted international guests.
"So, perhaps we will have to follow suit when all has been taken into consideration."
She said more information would be available later in the week.
"With jazz, I know last week the committee would have met with a view to looking at the possibilities. And there is no report yet. I would expect that before the end of this week information will be given to the public as to whether there will be a jazz festival or not."
Davidson-Celestine said one of the objectives of the jazz festival is to bring international and local visitors to Tobago.
"And if at this point, after the evaluation is done, jazz would not be able to achieve that objective then it makes no sense that we stage jazz."
The former Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier representative also promised to address the issue of outstanding gratuity payments to workers in the health sector.
"It is an issue that is outstanding and I will ensure that I work with the Secretary of Finance (Joel Jack) and also the Chief Secretary (Kelvin Charles) with a view to finding funds to treat with all those outstanding payments including gratuity.
Davidson-Celestine said she is not apprehensive about heading the division.
"The thing is that I have been in the Tobago House of Assembly for well over 15 years and so no division at this point is challenging for me. I know that there are quite a lot of issues in health and, along with the staff, we can sort those issues out."
On her appointment as a councillor, Davidson-Celestine said: "I am very excited today. I have been looking forward to this since January 26 (internal election run-off) and so I am very excited. I want to continue to chart the course for the development of our people on this island."