KINGSTOWN – Debate on the EC$1.3 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget was suspended on Tuesday after several government legislators, including Finance Minister, Camillo Gonsalves, tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Apart from Gonsalves, the other government legislators who have tested positive are Urban Development Minister, Julian Francis, the Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar and Education Minister Curtis King.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves further announced that Deputy Prime Minister, Montgomery Daniel and Government Senator Keisal Peters were unavailable because of “a digestion problem”.
The Finance Minister returned a positive COVID-19 result hours after delivering a five-hour budget address, while not wearing a mask, in the air-conditioned chamber, where there are no plexiglass shields for vaccinated MPs, who can remove their masks while speaking.
All other persons in the chambers were expected to wear an N95/KN95 mask while in the Assembly Chamber.
The budget address focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to it in 2022.
Prime Minister Gonsalves told Parliament he had tested negative even as some members of his security detail had received positive results.
Gonsalves seemed to entertain the probability that he, too, could receive a positive result before the debate is completed, even as he said that he intends to speak for the ill ministers during the four hours allotted to him.
“Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, given a train of circumstances, have put us in a position where I think that all we can do today at this honourable house is to suspend the sitting until tomorrow morning at nine o’clock…,”Gonsalves said.
“The train of circumstances, in a nutshell, can be put down to two other COVID cases on the government side,” he said, adding that the Finance and Urban Development Ministers had tested positive on the rapid antigen tests, required for entry into the Ntional Assembly under the most recent protocols.
Gonsalves said he could understand Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday, who was due to respond to the fiscal package, not wanting to do so either in the absence of the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Prime Minister and himself. (CMC)