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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks during yesterday’s COVID-19 media conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

The fact that the United States gave T&T two military type field hospitals to cater for potential increased bed demand doesn’t mean the COVID- 19 virus is out of control.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley indicated this yesterday after revealing the US’ assistance on TTT’s Now Morning Show with host Natalee Legore.

The hospitals will be placed at Couva Hospital– where intense level treatment cases are housed- and also Port- of- Spain,

Rowley confirmed one of the military hospitals was being set up at Couva. Tents were seen outside of the hospital yesterday with soldiers present. The other will be at Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain.

While the assistance has arisen due to surging COVID numbers, he said the situation isn’t out of control.

He said, “We expanded capacity to respond in the event we require more beds if we get more infected and if there’s demand for more bed space, you use field hospitals to increase bed space in the short term.

“This is a response to what’s happening as we experience higher level of infection and demand for bed spaces. “

The hospitals will have 40 bed capacity each with HDU and ICU spaces. The Opposition yesterday thanked the US for the hospitals.

Field hospitals were used across the US – including New York- in its battle with COVID last year when many American hospitals were stressed by bed space demands

On how well T&T has done so far in the COVID fight , Rowley said< “We could have done better” but easily could have “done a lot worse.”

He added: “Contrary to what some may say there’s no end to the decision-making that has to be done and we’re still learning and getting new information and instruction a year and a half after,”

“We’re at the stage where we are experiencing what Italians and those in Europe had last year and it’s sobering to have reports of deaths daily. But we are doing fairly well in managing and can do more. We are hoping for better results but it easily could have been lot worse.”

On why people weren’t responding to Government’s call for vaccination, he said he didn’t know that was so.

“Haven’t you seen the long lines? If we had more vaccines, I’m sure we’d have more people using it.”

“As morbidity rises, more people will see the alternative is to get vaccinated. While it’s not a cure, it allows a population not to end up with such high morbidities,” he also said.

He said vaccinations have started and there is hope ahead.

“I just want you to know this pandemic is not a joke to play with. In many instances it’s happening to families which is quite tragic–more than one person.”

“Take it seriously the things that have to be done – we told you that over and over and over. If we do those things we’ll protect others ,as those being infected are being infected by others ,” The Prime Minister said.

He said the virus doesn’t respect race, creed, class, political persuasion or geography.,

“Treat the vaccines as a response as there are benefits to be had. If you have good reason not be vaccinated, that’s understandable; good reason being if you have a medical condition where the risk level is too high,”

“But the average citizen should take the opportunity to be vaccinated…give yourself that better chance to come out of the pandemic alive and well…we’re doing everything possible to get an adequate supply of vaccines and we expect our situation will improve,” he noted,

Rowley said there was a lot of hesitancy in some quarters. “ I ask you to stay the course we’re ensuring the best response for T&T ..let’s do that together and we’ll all come out of it alive.”

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Govt to speak to Cuba on vaccines

Apart from pursuing certain vaccine sources, Government will speak to the Cuban Government on Cuban vaccines once those get World Health Organisation approval.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley also indicated this during yesterday’s interview.

He said Government has been talking with Cuba. But the only source which hasn’t been examined is the Sputnik vaccine.

Citing how hard it’s been to get vaccines, Rowley refuted Opposition claims that other regional countries have gone ahead with vaccination but T&T’s behind .

He noted COVAX vaccine acquisition, adding T&T got the same vaccines as Barbados and Grenada and Jamaica got a little more .

The allocation T&T got was because its position with the virus was a little better than others and that wasn’t recognised, he added.

Noting demands for vaccines, he said no Caricom colleague has been able to buy these and even the T&T private sector jumped to procure.

“But even if we gave (private sector) the Treasury, there weren’t vaccines to buy,” he said.

As Caricom chairman he said he had to advocate for Caricom as well as T&T.

He said Government knew COVAX could only supply certain numbers and it also had to be sourced from other places, but marketplaces only had a certain amount .

The Prime Minister said Government is talking to AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm, but: “You can only get it if it’s out there and there are no vaccines to be bought out there…discussions with Pfizer were on certain amounts but they were contracted to others.”

“This is the situation! Vaccines aren’t available..so don’t ask me to go out and get vaccines!…. there is no ‘somewhere else to go or ‘something else’ to use,”