THE Prime Minister said on Wednesday that due to its vaccination thrust Trinidad and Tobago was now in a better place in the fight against covid19 than previously as he sought to justify his motion to end to the state of emergency (SoE) at midnight, speaking in the House of Representatives. President Paula-Mae Weekes had originally proclaimed a SoE on May 15.
Noting foreign reports of a fourth wave on infections, Dr Rowley said, "It appears the virus will be with us for a long time."
He said last May, the country had been in a desperate situation regarding vaccine access and so had restricted movement and gatherings to try to curb people's exposure to the virus, and had encouraged hand-washing. Rowley said last May only 14,000 people were vaccinated but today 653,000 have had a first dose and 629,000 a second dose.
"It is a far cry from where we were in May. We are now talking third doses to boost our immune systems."
He said the country had received 1.9 million doses of vaccine, of which 1.2 million have been administered, leaving 650,000 in hand.
With 45 per cent of people vaccinated, he said the vast majority of people hospitalised for covid19 were unvaccinated.
"To save lives and livelihoods we have come back out, open up. We are operating safe zones. That's where we are in November 2021."
Rowley said the Government was now trying to open up the country and not restrict individuals.
"We have moved from one state to another."
He said he had previously told the House that he would lift the SoE "at the earliest opportunity."
Rowley said the country now had a different approach and different position to before and was differently armed.
He chided the Opposition for having criticised the SoE on several occasions, including an Independence Day message from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Rowley said her complaint that the SoE was "an insult to the Constitution" was repeated in the Opposition's Republic Day message which he said was done "just to be difficult and opposing."
The Opposition had criticised it in a statement in July promising to organise the labour movement although it was the latter's members who faced death and destruction by covid19.
"If that is your position, how come when the SoE is to be ended, you have a problem," Rowley asked. Saying Persad-Bissessar had urged the ending of the SoE, he said opposition MPs should today be jumping up shouting hallelujah. He said Persad-Bissessar had lamented that the SoE had closed thousands of small businesses, so she could not now complain of the SoE ending.
Rowley said the South Trinidad Chamber of Commerce expects an economic boost when the SoE ends, especially in the entertainment sector - "the casinos, the bars, the restaurants the cinemas" - and the manufacturing sector.
"Sane and sober people in this country have seen what the ending of the SoE can do," he said.
"I am very pleased to report to the world that during that period, I am not aware of any report of any abuse of the citizenry in TT, even though we had given this additional power to the State and to its agencies. We have acted in an exemplary manner in TT." Rowley said only the Opposition had spoken of tyranny and dictatorship, in trying to try to create political mischief.
Saying he was proud to have led the country through an SoE, he said no-one pay attention to the Opposition seriously as they were agents of inconvenience, with little to offer.
"In this pandemic, we don't have time to waste. I beg to move."