Strength in Community: Coping with COVID-19 in Belize

by Carolee Chanona
belize

As local COVID-19 cases rise in three districts – now under quarantine – many Belizean residents may experience feelings of fear, burnout, frustration, grief, and hopelessness at the chance to get back to normal. Health officials say these feelings are natural, globally. Perhaps, there is comfort in knowing we are not alone. Ministry officials and other agencies, as well as neighbors and community members, are available to support you. As Belize braces for the ripples of COVID-19, there is strength in community where being ‘our brother’s keeper’ is more important than ever.

“Remember to take things day by day and to reach out for support when you feel burned out or stressed. Eat nutritious food, exercise, and practice self-care and mindfulness to cope with feelings around COVID-19,” says a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). “Also focus on what you have control over, such as your own physical distancing, news and social media intake, virtual connections with loved ones, and your daily routine.”

#SanPedroStrong

Considering San Pedro confirmed three active clusters of COVID-19 and community spread, the Government of Belize, effective midnight August 6, mandated a 14-day quarantine order. Similarly, three villages in Orange Walk district (Santa Marta Village, Guinea Grass and Shipyard) are under the same restrictions as Ambergris Caye. Gatherings are restricted to 10 persons, with a general restriction of movement limited to essential services. Bars and nightclubs have effectively closed, with recreational activity limited; that includes no dining-in at restaurants, no sporting activities, no sport/leisurely fishing, etc. A mandatory curfew from 8:00 pm to 4:59 pm is in place, with no one entering or exiting the island for the next two weeks.

Considering tourism accounts for more than a third of the country’s GDP and a third of all jobs, Belize’s industry came to a grinding halt as COVID-19 swept the world. Particularly vulnerable is San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, who heavily relies on international guests. With the island of Ambergris Caye closed since the last week of March, zero tourism means zero income for the vast majority of residents. Especially now, as San Pedro reels from community spread, you can help from afar with a number of feeding and assistance programs.

Know of a feeding program or other community support initiative in San Pedro or Caye Caulker? Kindly submit here.

The Effect on Local Youths

children Hopkins school belize

Hopkins Village. Photo by Duarte Dellarole

With Belize postponing the reopening of schools until further notice (previously set for August 10th) and perhaps until September, officials say that youth need extra support in these areas. The excitement of seeing friends and going back to school is not the same as past years. Instead, engage in alternate social interactions to recognize and celebrate a youth’s accomplishments; such as getting through the school week, completing virtual tests and assignments, and other personal and academic milestones. Virtual hangouts with friends, report card family dinner celebrations, and family game nights can bring normalcy in a time of so much uncertainty. Youth are especially resilient, and we all need to remind them that this time will pass.

Maintaining Mental Wellness during COVID-19

Photo by Burn Box Gym

Resources to maintain mental wellness during COVID-19 are available with the Ministry of Health and with Mind Health Connect Belize. Not to mention, physical movement and a sense of normalcy during quarantine can positively affect mental health; especially if exercise was a part of your daily routine. Burn Box co-owner and Registered Nurse (RN), Whitney Arguelles, recommends 30 minutes a day of physical activity to “boost your immune system and release stress-fighting endorphins.” Get creative with household items for DIY gym equipment, like a 5-gallon water bottle or a backpack with cans. Stay active at home with the help of local trainers in Belize with these free workouts

mental health covid19 coping belize

Emergency numbers in Belize

covid-19 community contacts belizeWhether planning to visit Belize or currently in country, we encourage you to save these important contacts. Regardless if you are in country or abroad, you can help to #stopthespread; stay home as much as possible, use a face mask at all times, and practice 6 feet of social distancing.

Persons in Belize can still call the 0-800-MOH-CARE toll-free number for any and all COVID-19 health related information.

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