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Belize ready to begin repatriation of citizens stranded outside

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 14, 2020– The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in citizens of various countries being left stranded outside their national borders; some are stranded on cruise ships that have been at sea for months and are unable to dock due to the pandemic.

There are many Belizeans who have been left stranded after the Government of Belize declared a National State of Emergency and proceeded to close the borders at the end of March, in effect locking out Belizean citizens in the wake of measures to prevent the importation of the novel coronavirus into the country.

Now that all the persons who had contracted the virus have tested negative, and there has been no new case of the virus reported by the Ministry of Health for 31 days and counting, the Government is now making plans to repatriate Belizeans who were locked out of the county.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow made the announcement today during a virtual press conference, in which he also announced the easing of some of the State of Emergency restrictions.

Barrow said that Belizeans who are abroad must get in contact with Belize embassies and consulates and indicate how and when they would like to arrive back home.

Barrow said, however, that the flow of Belizeans returning would have to be managed: “We can’t have everybody returning at once,” he said.

“And all returnees will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.” Barrow stressed.

Barrow went on to say that, “The Belizean border-jumpers will continue to face criminal charges. But they, too, will be quarantined before their trial. They will be swabbed and if they are given bail, they still go back into quarantine.”

“This relaxing of measures naturally begs the question: When will our borders be opened and when will the PGIA (Philip Goldson International Airport) be opened?” said Barrow.

Barrow replied to his own question: “I’m afraid I have no comprehensive answer to give.”

The Prime Minister added, “But I can tell you this, we are contemplating special and differential treatment for the PGIA, with the hope that general entry into Belize by air can begin even before entry by land and sea.”

Barrow said that the July 1 restart for international flights is the fervent hope of us all. “Indeed, it has been the trigger for contingency tourism, which is well-advanced. Unfortunately, however, we must concede the distinct possibility of a pushback … unless, of course, a rapid test is available for us to screen visitors or those visitors can produce an acceptable passport immunity certificate,” he said.

“It is difficult to see how we can proceed. Otherwise, we run the unacceptable risk of undoing all that we have done in this coronavirus campaign,” Barrow said, emphasizing that “the uncertainty is regrettable.”

Barrow explained that the amended Statutory Instrument (SI) will come into effect tomorrow, Friday.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte will provide the full details later on today during the Government’s webcast, Meet the Experts.

Feature photo: The Philip Goldson International Airport

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