BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 10, 2020– When the COVID-19 pandemic began to lock down the world and Belize followed suit, closing its borders and then declaring on March 23 that not even Belizeans would be allowed entry, hundreds of citizens of the country were legally locked out under the national State of Emergency that was declared.
Since the country had a lengthy respite from any active case of the novel coronavirus, the Government of Belize activated a repatriation program to allow Belizeans to return home.
In a press release issued last Friday, June 5, the government said that 570 Belizeans who are stranded overseas had applied to be repatriated.
The government’s program is designed to be a controlled process that leads to a smooth, crowd-less experience for everyone concerned.
“On May 18, 2020, the controlled repatriation programme began with the opening of the process for stranded and displaced Belizeans to complete an application — https://repatriation.covid19.bz/Forms/Landing,” said the government press release.
The release added, “The COVID-19 Repatriation Committee, comprising of the ministries responsible for Health, Foreign Affairs, Immigration, Human Development, and ultimately, National Security, organized the domestic arrangements for repatriation, including identification, and cite assessments of the quarantine facilities, negotiation of rates, training, assigning health officers and Belize Defence Force officers for the returning Belizeans, as well as COVID-19 testing.”
Of the 456 repatriation applications the government received, “239 were from Belizeans in the USA seeking to return home; 35 are in Mexico; 32 in Guatemala; 20 in Peru; 19 in Cuba; 19 in Honduras; 17 in the UK; 14 in El Salvador; 11 across France, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and The Netherlands; six in Guyana; six in Taiwan; 11 in Jamaica; four in Costa Rica; one in Panama; seven in India; four in Bolivia; three in Barbados; two in Colombia; one in Lebanon; one in Saudi Arabia; one in United Arab Emirates; one in The Philippines; one in Nigeria; and one travelled from Tanzania,” stated the release.
The release said that applications are being received daily.
“Applications are screened and sorted, with priority according to persons with chronic medical conditions; those in acute distress, persons at higher risk from being affected by COVID-19, persons in acute financial or other distress, and persons traveling with young children. Applications are then reviewed by the COVID-19 Repatriation Committee, which recommends applicants for repatriation. Final approval rests with the Minister of National Security. Belizeans approved for repatriation are so notified and are required to inform the COVID-19 Repatriation Committee of the date, mode of return and port of entry,” said the release.
“Returning Belizeans are screened by the Quarantine Authority prior to being transported to an approved quarantine facility, where they stay for 14 days and will be tested in order to obtain approval to return to their homes,” the release further said.
So far, 168 Belizeans have been approved for repatriation by the Ministry of National Security.
“Re-entry has been phased and cautious in order to protect those most vulnerable already in Belize, and the general populace already here as well as those seeking to return,” said the press release.
Feature photo: The Philip Goldson International Airport