CONDEMNED by Government for its absence from Parliament since the Prime Minister was diagnosed with covid19, the Opposition has defended this decision, saying it is following the science.
Caroni East MP Dr Rishad Seecharan said with a surge in cases and deaths, inadequate vaccines, as well as the discovery of the Brazilian strain in Trinidad and Tobago, there is still no clarification on who infected Dr Rowley or how many other people the carrier would have infected.
Seecharan said given the WHO guidelines, Rowley’s comorbidity, which could affect the incubation period, plus his first symptoms on April 5, Rowley could have been infected as early as March 22 or as late as March 31.
“The WHO states that the incubation period of covid19, which is the time between exposure to the virus and symptom onset, is on average five to six days, but can be as long as 14 days.”
Under the circumstances, Seecharan said, Rowley could have been positive and have no symptoms before he left Trinidad for the Easter weekend in Tobago, where he is still recuperating, and MPs could have been exposed.
“A pre-symptomatic person with covid19 may be contagious 48 hours before starting to experience symptoms. In fact, people without symptoms may be more likely to spread the illness, because they are unlikely to be isolating,”
He said it would have been prudent to ensure all members were covid-free before returning to Parliament. and the protocol when positive cases are identified – to close, sanitise, test and quarantine – has not happened in the Red House.
“It would be reckless and irresponsible on our part to enter an enclosed, air-conditioned chamber with no ventilation and passively allow members to sit for a session which may last for hours.”
On a virtual platform of the United National Congress (UNC) on Monday night, Seecharan referred to the closure of the St John’s and Our Lady of Fatima churches, out of an abundance of caution, after a priest came into contact with someone who tested positive.
“So, it was prudent to close the churches, but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the Chaguanas Market, but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the EBC (Elections and Boundaries Commission) but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the TTPS Finance Branch, but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the head office of T&TEC but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the UTT campus, but not Parliament. It was prudent to close the DPP offices, but not Parliament
“Our Parliament’s screening procedures cannot detect an asymptomatic carrier,” he said.
“The Prime Minister is the most protected person in TT. You just can’t simply walk up to him and have a conversation.
“His inner circle comprises of many of the same persons that we sit opposite to in the Chamber of the Red House. Without reassurances from the Speaker of the House and by extension the Ministry of Health, on the status of members, how could we enter Parliament, with possible high-risk persons in the Chamber?”
Seecharan also offered greetings to the Muslim community, which is marking Ramadan, and condolences to the family of late Energy Minister Franklin Khan. Seecharan said Khan’s death is a reminder that public service is a tough taskmaster.
“I speak to you tonight in uncertain times. We are currently experiencing a third wave of covid19 cases, with hundreds of new cases in the last few days. There have been 914 cases in the last month and 11 deaths,
“Tobago, which was almost covid-free prior to the Easter weekend, now has 23 cases. Community spread is rampant. Schools cannot reopen and SEA students can only hope that this surge does not affect their examination. “
He blamed Rowley for perpetrating one of the greatest public health fiascos in history when he announced Tobago was open for business and some 50,000 people, according to Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, flooded the island.
“With a government that could not source vaccines, we are now seeing the re-implementation of health restrictions. This will almost certainly see small and medium businesses having to lay off staff, and in many cases, some will have to close permanently."