Three days after assuring citizens in his Easter message that the country will overcome the socio-economic challenges triggered by covid19, the Prime Minister has himself contracted the virus and is being treated at an undisclosed site in Tobago.
A statement on Dr Rowley’s Facebook page on Tuesday said he tested positive for covid19 and is in isolation.
It said Rowley, who was in Tobago during the Easter weekend, began experiencing flu-like symptoms on Monday and was subsequently tested for covid19.
Rowley, 71, was due to be given a first dose of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine at 2.30pm on Tuesday at the Scarborough Health Centre.
The national rollout of the vaccine began in earnest on Tuesday after the country received 33,600 doses from Covax.
On April 1, 3,000 doses were sent to Tobago, where Rowley said he would be vaccinated as soon as it was available to him.
This batch of vaccines is to be administered to some 1,500 people on the island, including frontline workers as well as people 60 and over with non-communicable diseases who are members of public health clinics.
News of the prime minister contracting covid19 came hours after Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced on his Facebook page that he had been exposed to a primary contact of a recent covid19 case, on Good Friday.
In a post on Monday, Dennis said while his exposure to the primary contact was minimal and mask-wearing and physical distancing were practised during the interaction, he decided to get tested for the virus.
Dennis said although the initial test results came back negative, he will self-isolate at home for the next two weeks.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I will remain quarantined at home until after April 16, when the full 14-day quarantine period ends,” he said in the post.
Dennis said during this period he would work from home through virtual meetings and other forms of communication.
He urged Tobagonians to remain cautious and vigilant, even in light of the arrival of the vaccines.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to ensure adherence to the covid19 protocols if we are to keep our numbers low and return to a greater level of normalcy.”
Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine, who received the covid19 vaccine at the Scarborough Health Centre on Tuesday, wished the prime minister a speedy recovery.
“The Prime Minister is based here in Tobago at this time and I know that he has been receiving medical care from our staff here on the island.”
Davidson-Celestine said she did not meet with Rowley over the weekend.
“It was the Easter holiday and, of course, we decided to break from the tradition of working even on the weekend.”
She said she hopes Rowley, when he recovers, will be an “ambassador for the division and also the Ministry of Health and for the rest of the country.”
Davidson-Celestine said she also hopes the PM, at some point, “would indicate his own feelings from a person who would have contracted covid, within the not-so-distant future.”
She said covid19 does not discriminate.
“It is very important that we go out and be vaccinated in order to preserve our lives, which is what we are trying to achieve here from the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development.”
On January 8, Rowley was hospitalised at West Shore Medical, Cocorite, after he complained of feeling unwell.
He had two coronary procedures, an angiogram and and an angioplasty. Medical officials said both were successful and he was discharged several days later.
The People’s National Movement, meanwhile, is rallying behind its leader. In a statement, the party said it noted Rowley’s covid19 diagnosis.
“We are certain that he will follow all of the doctors’ advice, disciplined as he is, as he deals with this,” it said. “Our leader has repeatedly emphasised that the virus does not discriminate between party membership, social status, profession, age or any other social demographic or construct.”
The party added: “Our Prime Minister leads this nation not only with the grit of a loving father, but with the example of a dedicated and protective guardian who will do everything possible to protect those in his charge.”
The PNM urged citizens to follow the health guidelines by practising physical and social distancing and adopting personal hygiene.
“The virus is very real, the global pandemic continues to be unabating, and the consequences, devastating. Living with this virus is our new reality, and it is up to us to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”Other world leaders who have had the virus include UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain Prince Charles, French president Emmanuel Macron and former US president Donald Trump.