Trinidad & Tobago will go to the polls next week despite calls for the government to postpone the general election as the number of Covid-19 cases are on the rise.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley, whose People's National Movement (PNM) took power five years ago, said the election would proceed as scheduled on 10 August.
"We will have our elections, there is no question about that and we will continue to be observant and we’re guided by the information and the science," Rowley said, according to local reports.
The dual-island nation, which is home to a number of natural gas exploration schemes by major oil and gas companies as well as the Atlantic LNG plant, had as of this week reported 182 Covid-19 cases and only eight deaths.
However, the number of confirmed cases appeared to be on the upward swing in July after flattening in May and June, according to World Health Organization data.
There have been 25 confirmed cases in Trinidad & Tobago since the start of August, according to the WHO, compared to 31 in all of July and just 10 in June.
Covid-19 has also complicated the involvement of international observers for the election next week, local media have reported.
Rowley told reporters last week that he had received no notice that observers from the country's Caribbean neighbours or Commonwealth nations would be present for the election.
Recently, Progressive Enpowerment Party leader Phillip Alexander called on Trinidad & Tobago President Paula-Mae Weekes to postpone the election for up to 30 days because of the pandemic.
Weekes denied the request but Alexander submitted a second one after a recent spike, according to local media.
Kamla Persad Bissessar, leader of main opposition party the United National Congress (UNC), has accused Rowley of misleading the country on the importance of international observers but has stopped short of calling for a postponement.
Bissessar was prime minister until 2015, when the PNM beat the UNC at the general election that year.
"Keith Rowley must take full responsibility if international observers are unable to arrive here in time to ensure proper scrutiny of the election process," she said in late July.
"I am calling on the Prime Minister to act immediately to put the necessary arrangements in place so we will not be left without observer teams for the first time in our recent electoral history.
"Let us continue to do all we can to ensure our tradition of free and fair elections in Trinidad & Tobago is upheld while protecting the health and wellbeing of our nation."
Recent polling showed Rowley's PNM ahead of the UNC by five percentage points, just outside of the margin of error.
However, the same poll showed 16% of the likely electorate was still undecided just a week before election day. That could result in an unexpected boost for the UNC.