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Dr Sonel Rowley-Stewart

Santa dropped an early Christmas present for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley a few days ago—his daughter Dr Sonel Rowley-Stewart returned from New York.

This was confirmed to the T&T Guardian last Saturday. This, after Opposition United National Congress sources first spoke of the situation.

Rowley-Stewart, who returned last week from New York, is said to be in quarantine but a location hasn’t been disclosed.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, when asked about quarantine for Rowley-Stewart said, “My policy is that I don’t give out information on anyone.”

During the COVID- 19 lockdown, in speaking about the pain of families separated, Rowley had several times expressed worry that his daughter was located in New York’s—COVID-19 Ground Zero area. He first admitted to being a troubled parent in March when the pandemic rolled worldwide.

His daughter and her husband Stephan were in New York at that time, when New York had more than half of the US’ initial 35,000 COVID cases.

Dr Rowley-Stewart is a child psychologist and her husband works with international investment bankers Goldman Sachs.

Rowley had said then that even if his daughter had wanted to return home she couldn’t, as T&T had closed its borders. At that time when borders were first sealed, he’d said there was no window for exemption, as nobody would be given a pass based on who they were, where they came from or “pulling strings.”

As T&T continued to manage the COVID pandemic, exemptions were subsequently given under strict criteria, including quarantining for arrivals, and exemptions continue.

On December 4, Rowley revealed that his daughter had applied for an exemption to return and he was hoping she’d have been among those nationals allowed to return during the holiday period. At that time, he’d said his daughter was in the process of fulfilling the remaining requirements of the exemption application process. He’d said while it was his wish to have her spend the Christmas holiday with the family, he’d noted it was in the hands of National Security Minister Stuart Young.

At that time, Young had said as at December 4, a total of 15,471 applications had been received from people seeking return. Exemptions granted to people to re-enter T&T up to December 4 were 8,500. He said increased repatriations were being done in recent weeks and additional flights added to certain routes. Special arrangements were also made regarding seasonal workers who’d gone to Canada, he noted.

Some People’s National Movement sources said yesterday that the appropriate processes—concerning exemption applications etc —were involved for Sonel Rowley-Stewart’s return. Young didn’t reply to queries yesterday on the current number of exemptions granted. Sources said it had gone past the last 8,500 figure.

Last week the Ministry of Health announced that at least three repatriation flights from the US, including New York and Miami, Barbados and Canada were due in before Christmas Day.