BELMOPAN, Thurs. Jan. 14, 2021– The Government of Belize has announced that the Corozal Free Zone (CFZ) will be reopened on February 1, 2021 after almost a year of closure. According to a press release from the CFZ’s CEO, Neri Ramirez, however, the CFZ will initially be open to only Mexican nationals.
In December, inter-ministerial meetings were held to fast-track the reopening of the CFZ, with the hopes that planning for the reopening would be completed in time for the Christmas holiday. The process was put on the back shelf, however, when the government and business owners at the CFZ were not able to agree on who would bear the costs of the new measures that were to be put in place to ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocols after the reopening. On Subsequently, on January 12, after a Cabinet meeting, the decision was made to reopen the CFZ for business.
It appears that the impasse between GOB and the CFZ businesses was resolved, since the release from GOB states, “The cost of the reopening is being covered by the CFZ businesses.” Businesses within the CFZ are now being asked to be prepared for reopening by February 1, 2021. A letter sent to investors from CEO Neri Ramirez notifies all businesses of an impending collection of their contributions and calls on them to “make [their] contribution promptly.”
The release states, “Businesses must ensure that they have adequate facilities to safeguard health and are properly prepared to follow all public health protocols. Readiness preparations also include hiring 15 compliance officers to monitor businesses and visitors to the Free Zone and the acquisition of equipment by the CFZ to ensure that sanitizing and health safety monitoring are done properly.”
The CFZ will be reequipped with a walk-in tunnel and temperature monitor at its entrance. Also, rapid testing will be available and conducted on any person who shows any signs of COVID-19. Minister of Health officials will train compliance officers in the use of the equipment and the enforcement of COVID-19 prevention protocols. Also, OIRSA personnel will carry out disinfection of all vehicles entering the CFZ.
In a phone interview with News5 recently, Vice Chairman of the CFZ, Anil Hotchandani, said, “There’s a lot at stake. So at the moment, preparations are being made when it refers to safety. The free zone management is in consultation with the health department to put in all the safety protocols in place.”