BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 6, 2020– The National Oversight Committee met for most of today and, following the meeting, Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow took to the airwaves in a live broadcast to announce that the entire Cayo District was being placed under lockdown, and government will increase random testing for COVID-19.
The new quarantine measures that government announced for the Cayo District were introduced after the first COVID-19 death occurred in the country yesterday, Sunday.
In addition, today, following the death of Hubert Pipersburgh, the Cayo resident who died from the coronavirus yesterday, Sunday, the Ministry of Health announced that two other San Ignacio men tested positive for the virus.
One of the men had contact with Pipersburgh and is in self-quarantine at home. The other positive case, however, required hospitalization and is being treated as a pneumonia case at the Western Regional Hospital.
Barrow also announced some new measures for the entire country. These measures are primarily aimed at shortening the time period during which businesses are allowed to remain open.
“For the protection of the public, the entire Cayo District must now be placed under quarantine. During this period of an enhanced lockdown for Cayo, random testing will be greatly expanded throughout the district,” PM Barrow stated in the public announcement.
Barrow added, “… during the period of this lockdown, let me repeat, the Ministry of Health will do greatly increased surveillance and random testing to try to get a handle on this thing, particularly in the first instance in the Cayo District, because of the fact of the three cases having come from there.”
Barrow went on to outline that, “People in Cayo will be strictly confined to the following activities: procuring food and medicine, procuring fuel and finance. Thus, grocery shops and pharmacies will be open, but during reduced hours. Fuel stations will also operate during reduced hours and banks, credit unions and other lending institutions, they will only be able to operate between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. Naturally bus transportation to and from the Cayo District will cease all together.”
The Prime Minister further explained, “To preserve the food supply chains, farms and farmers will be allowed to continue to work. Indeed, to this end, the Ministry of Agriculture will immediately begin to liaise with the agro-productive sector in the district. Additionally, of course, the movement of essential workers must be provided for, so government will have to arrange for their transportation in view of the stoppage of the commercial buses.”
“Apart from the Cayo lockdown there are also additional measures that the NOC took with respect to the rest of the country,” Barrow said, before itemizing the new measures to be implemented in the amended Statutory Instrument, which gives legal effect to the new orders.
Barrow then explained that most businesses which have been designated as essential services or have been given approved status will continue to be in operation, but there would be some changes to the length of time during which they are allowed to be open to the public daily. Before announcing the changes that would take place in Belize City, however, Barrow said that “…one particular approved activity has been taken off that list of approved businesses entirely and must now cease operations and I am talking about construction and constructions sites, private and commercial. They must now be closed in accordance with the decision taken today by the National Oversight Committee.”
All construction companies have therefore been ordered to cease operations for the next 14 days, in the first instance, Barrow announced.
The PM went on to state,” …bakeries and tortilla factories — always those were businesses that naturally that had to be allowed to remain open. Their opening hours, though, will now change. They will go from 5:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and then they initially were on the list of businesses that could open from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. So, to repeat, they now change and they go from 5:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We are trying to shorten working hours as much as possible to reduce the movement and the flow of traffic of persons.”
Prime Minister Barrow further said, “From the list of those businesses that previously were allowed to open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. — convenience stores, food stores, supermarkets, meat shops, butchers, distributors and factories of carbonated and other beverages, including spirits and excluding potable water and food, will now only be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.”
“So financial institutions: commercial banks, credit unions, money lending institutions, money transfer institutions and so on — they will only be able to operate between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon; markets that retail agricultural produce, fish and meat — they will be able to start opening a little earlier from 6:00 a.m., but they too must close by 4:00 p.m. each day. Mechanic shops, garages and other auto parts places — from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.; hardware stores for delivery services only —between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., entirely without exception, with certain obvious exceptions,” Barrow outlined.
“In the case of Cayo, the exceptions have to be severely limited. Accordingly, people in Cayo will be strictly confined to the following activities: procuring food and medicine, procuring fuel and finance. Thus grocery shops and pharmacies will be opened, but during reduced hours. Fuel stations will also operate during reduced hours and banks, credit unions and other lending institutions, they will only be able to operate between the hours of eight a.m. and twelve noon,” Barrow said.
“Naturally, bus transportation to and from the Cayo District will cease altogether,” the PM announced, as the country heads into the long Easter holidays.