Coronavirus or COVID-19 infections originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and since then have been reported in almost every country in the world. The tiny country of Belize remains free of the virus as of March 22, 2020.
Exactly how Belize, which has a population of 350,000 has stayed coronavirus-free is not known. However, when the virus began to spread in to the Americas, Belize immediately took steps to screen travelers and as the situation escalated move towards restricting travel. While it appears the bans and restrictions have helped prevent coronavirus spread so far, the risk of coronavirus infections in Belize is “high,” due to the fact that ALL neighboring countries in the Americas are infected.
To reduce the risk of infection, today the COVID High Level group met and have made the following decisions:
- The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport will be closed effective Monday, March 23rd, after the last scheduled flight departs.
- Effective midnight Saturday, March 21st, the Northern Border of Belize will be closed for traveling but will remain open for cargo transportation. This means that only Belizean nationals, residents, and diplomats residing in Belize will be allowed entry into Belize subject to inspection and possible quarantine for 14 days. Similarly, the Northern Border will be closed for nationals and residents wishing to travel outside of Belize except for emergencies.
- The size of mass groupings is being reduced to no more than 25 effectives immediately and this includes weddings, funerals, wakes, parties etc. This limit does not apply to places of employment that should have business protocols for social distancing and business continuity plans in place.
- Restaurants will be encouraged to promote take out or take away
- By Monday the Chamber and Public Service will present proposals for work from home and as well as recommended protocols for social distancing in the workplace.
- The utility companies will be meeting and by Monday a proposal will be made to the group on what to do about billing and collection.
- Ministry of Health has increased the number of testing, just yesterday 39 testes were conducted. More testing kits are on order that will take us from the 4 kits- a kit contains 96 tests, to 200 kits in the second batch of kits, which will arrive in country next week. The plan is to reach capability to do 3000 kits.
- In terms of testing, at the moment Ministry of Health has been going to persons to swab them and bring the test to try and avoid anyone getting exposed. The Party Leader suggested they convert one facility for testing per district, for example Cleopatra White in the case of Belize City and the meeting was amenable to that recommendation. Ministry of Health will proceed with this.
- The Party Leader is to speak with his legal team to look at the possibility of declaring a state of emergency and the Prime Minster will speak with the Attorney General’s office to see how this can be done.
- In response to the issue of public transportation, the Department of Transport will be instructed to produce a better plan to the committee by Monday.
- Beginning today there will be a step up of the awareness campaign and more information on hotlines where people can call.