BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 26, 2020– COVID-19 (coronavirus pandemic) has seized the world and turned it upside down, creating new social norms around the globe – no country is spared as nations brace themselves to resist the spread of COVID-19, which has seen its epicenter shift from China, where it was discovered, to Europe.
It now threatens to explode in the United States, which the World Health Organization (WHO) warned today will become its new epicenter, as deaths in the US spike.
In Belize, where two persons tested positive for the coronavirus, the government pulled out an old quarantine law, saying in a press release that the quarantine covers the entire country.
Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte explained the do’s and don’ts under the new quarantine regulations that are designed to restrict social movement in order to prevent the deadly coronavirus from spreading.
In a press release that it issued today, under the caption “Government of Belize Enacts Safety Measures,” the government said that the new safety measures are issued under Statutory Instrument Number 038 of 2020, and the order is made by the Quarantine Authority of Belize, which derives its powers under section 6 of the Quarantine Act, Chapter 41 of the Substantive Laws of Belize Revised Edition 2011.
The release explains that, “This order shall apply to the country of Belize with the exception of Ambergris Caye, which is governed by the Belize Constitution (Emergency Powers) Ambergris Caye Regulation, 2020….”
The new quarantine limits the size of public gatherings to 10 persons or less. “For the purposes of this Order, every person shall practice social distancing,” it said.
The Order limits the number of persons in vehicles of public transportation to the amount of seats available in those vehicles of public transportation (no standing on buses).
“Every bus operator arriving at a terminal in Belize shall park the bus, instruct the passengers to disembark and oversee the sanitization of the bus by personnel on site at the terminal.
“Prior to boarding any bus at a terminal, every passenger shall wash and sanitize his hands at the convenience provided by the terminal,” the release said.
The Order also provided a list of establishments that it says shall close until further notice, and these include casinos and gambling establishments; spas, beauty salons and barber shops; gymnasiums, sporting complexes; discotheques, bars, rum shops and nightclubs. Also on the list are restaurants, saloons, diners and other similar establishments, which may operate to offer takeout services only.
Under the Order, owners of business establishments must demarcate distances of at least 3 feet between their customers outside. This is to be done in 24 hours after the Order is issued.
The Order says that no person should host or attend a private party which includes any person from outside of the immediate household of the house occupant.
Under the Order, no person shall attend a sporting event, any banquet, ball or reception, and in the case of weddings and funerals, no more than ten persons — in general, just members of the immediate family— can be in attendance. Meetings of fraternal societies, private or social clubs or civic organizations or associations are forbidden.
In the interest of public safety, the Quarantine Authority may by notice published in the Government Gazette make the public aware of the closure of any market or public place.
“A person who develops flu-like symptoms and who reasonably suspects that he may have had contact with someone who has traveled to a country affected by COVID-19 or is infected with COVID-19, shall immediately inform the Ministry with responsibility for health and go into self-isolation in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry with responsibility for health.
“Every person entering Belize from any port of entry shall immediately inform the Ministry with responsibility for health and go into self-isolation in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry with responsibility for health,” states the Order.
The Order also makes provision for employers to allow for their employees to work from their home without imposing any penalty against leave entitlement of the employee unless otherwise agreed by the employer and the employee.
The penalty for violating any provision of the Order is a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months, or both fine and imprisonment.
The Order shall be valid until revoked by the Quarantine Authority.
Feature photo: The street in one of Belize’s major tourist destinations, San Pedro, is free of pedestrians after lockdown ( Photo by Facebook: Oscar Cisneros)