BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 24, 2020– In a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow; UDP Leader-Elect and Minister of Education, Patrick Faber; and Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, informed the public of further measures that would be taken in light of the consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Belize over the past two weeks.
The press conference began with an update from Dr. Manzanero, in which he indicated some promising findings for the first time in nearly three weeks. While the curve which traces the increase in COVID-19 cases has yet to flatten, there was a minor decrease in the number of new positive cases near the end of the week.
Based on the data processed on Thursday, Dr. Manzanero reported a further 41 positive samples out of 272 tests that were administered. Two of those positive cases were found in Corozal, one In Orange Walk, 23 in the Belize District and nine in the Cayo District.
Of those samples, it was also determined that five persons from various areas in the country had recovered from the virus.
Dr. Manzanero also mentioned that his department is now expecting an increase in recovered cases from San Pedro, given that the 14-21-day cycle has now elapsed.
Additionally, Dr. Manzanero made mention of Belize’s 6th COVID-19-related fatality. While this particular patient’s death was not a direct result of COVID-19, international protocol suggests that any person who dies while infected with COVID-19 should be reported as a COVID-19 fatality.
It was also announced by the Department of Health Services this week that changes have been made in the procedures for handling corpses of infected persons.
Furthermore, the repatriation process has also been modified so that returning Belizeans will now be tested seven days after their arrival, with an expected result being returned between ten and twelve days later. These measures were taken in an effort not to have persons quarantined beyond the necessary period of time.
Subsequently, the Prime Minister shared an update on additional safety measures that are being implemented during the State of Emergency, which the GOB has just renewed for an additional fourteen days.
While a total lockdown does not seem impending due to the economic and social implications, stricter measures were introduced that will affect the daily activities of all Belizeans.
As of Sunday, August 23, 2020, a new standardized curfew has now taken effect, from 9:00 p.m. to 4:59 a.m. everyday, including the weekends. This was done to accommodate commuters who have been having trouble getting home by the start of the curfew after work.
Spas, beauty salons and barber shops are now only to operate on an appointment basis, with no more than one customer being attended to, and one customer awaiting services, at a time.
Private parties including any person from outside the immediate household, are now prohibited. All recreational and competitive sporting events have been suspended. Also, no more than ten persons, other than the bride and groom, official witnesses and the marriage officer, can be in attendance at weddings.
Banquets, balls and receptions are also suspended, as well as social events, and ceremonies of public worship which involve the participation of a congregation.
With regards to funerals, only ten members of the immediate family of a deceased person and a priest or pastor and the mortuary workers may be allowed to attend.
Meetings of fraternal societies (i.e., lodges and free masonries) are also suspended for the two-week period.
Food mills, as well as sugar, citrus and other approved food production factories, port operations and services connected with the loading and unloading of ships and aircrafts, public utilities and independent energy producers will all be allowed to operate on a 24/7 shift system.
Transportation service providers and other businesses will receive stricter penalties if they fail to enforce the use of masks and proper social distancing protocol while rendering services to the public.
Gyms, too, will be closed, and restaurants will only be allowed to operate on a take-out, delivery and drive-through basis. Bars, however, remain closed.
Street vendors (i.e., sellers of tacos or barbecued meals) are permitted to sell from their residence or a particular location, but not on the street side.
Work permit holders, consultants and specialists who need to come to Belize on an emergency basis, as well as investors, will be able to enter the country on the basis of protocol adherence, which involves an application process.
PM Barrow mentioned that these measures are being enforced in hopes that the country can get a better handle on the spread of the disease over the next two weeks.