In this 2018 file photo, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon pose for a Christmas portrait with their daughters Dr Sonel Rowley-Stewart, 2nd right, and Tonya Rowley-Cuffy, right, sons-in-law Stephan Stewart and Kareem Cuffy and grandson Lucas Rowley-Cuffy.

While Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s administration battles to secure Trinidad and Tobago against the COVID-19 crisis, he’s admitted to continuing to be a troubled parent since his daughter is in COVID “Ground Zero” in New York.

“Even if she wanted to return she can’t, as we’ve closed our borders,” he said at yesterday’s latest media briefing on COVID-19 measures at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

New York has over half of the more than 35,000 confirmed cases in the United States.

The Prime Minister did not, however, name which of his daughters – Sonel or Tonya – was abroad.

Rowley said his niece came in from Jamaica two weeks ago and is now in “total” self-quarantine. His nephew also came from the US and is quarantined.

“… Both of them scared on what might happen to their mother, given her age and vulnerability,” he said.

He said there was now no window for exemption, as nobody would be given a pass based on who they were, where they came from or “pulling strings.”

T&T yesterday registered its 51st COVID-19 case after 41 cases arose from amongst recent cruise ship passengers. Rowley noted the first nine cases, adding “Then we got a boatload…”

Several downtown Port-of-Spain businesses remained closed yesterday. Queuing up occurred outside banks and other places as the COVID protocol of having no more than 10 people in a facility was observed.

Rowley again warned the public about the possibility of increasing cases ahead if there wasn’t strong heeding of recommendations for people to safeguard themselves. He said Government is going to take all measures needed on the issue and get the results doctors seek – if not, other results could occur.

So far, he said he hadn’t heard of any deaths or community spread, but said, “T&T’s not immune – it’s an evolving situation.

“I’ve been looking at what’s happening outside. If we reach the stage where all (hospital) ventilators are required, it means we’ve lost this battle.”

To date, he said the health sector’s been carrying the task well – including the latest 41 – and given the situation, if cases increase in the next two weeks, health care workers should be able to cope.

He said there are many T&T households whose physical space make it difficult to self-isolate if this is necessary. But he called on all to be alert to personal hygiene and keeping distance from people with symptoms,

“I’d be fooling you to say something’s in place to ensure all in T&T can’t transmit it, we know we can (transmit). That’s why things are being done and we’re expecting reports of confirmations and those will require certain attention. Hopefully, they’ll be mild, if not we’ll be able to deal with it – this is a rolling number, of a situation evolving daily,” Rowley said.

“The curves in the last six weeks, will either climb very steeply, but we’re aiming for a gentle curve, allowing if infections come, we can cope. But if it comes with a huge increase in infection rates, it threatens our plans which may not be able to cope with it.”

He said the vast majority of people were acting responsibly and if that continued T&T’s chances would be good. But he said there are some who may do things that can indirectly make cases increase and this had to be avoided.

Rowley said he’d also heard conversations about people “standing on their rights.” For those who wished to do so, law enforcement would come in.

Rowley also said it wasn’t logistically feasible to police every household to ensure people self-quarantined.

“This (virus) will rise or fall on people’s behaviour. We don’t want to get to a place where the infection curve gets to levels where it overwhelms health systems.”

Noting that history had shown pandemics carried a phase two which could be worse than phase one, he called for a bit more co-operation from the public. He said protection against spread for a while has allowed the country not to shut down. “Our health professionals have been doing a wonderful job to give us a chance to walk this curve without being too steep, the only thing is to change our own personal behaviours,” he said.