BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 21, 2021– The Ministry of Health and Wellness has announced that some relaxation to the rigid COVID-19 regulations currently in place may be forthcoming. Members of the ruling administration told the media this week that they are in conversation with health professionals to draft an updated set of regulations. Since the enactment of SI 175 of 2020, the country has seen a steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities. The data shows a flattening epidemiological curve, which means that the measures in place at this time, by and large, are effective.
During an interview with local media, Prime Minister John Briceño remarked, “If we wanted to just say, ok, declare victory, we could have already lifted the curfew, and say ‘ok, we done win’. But it’s not just about a political victory; it is about protecting the lives of our citizens, and so we felt that we need to hold it on a little bit longer so that, whenever we remove the restrictions, it’s not going to flare up again, you know, one month later or a few weeks later.”
The Prime Minister said that another measure that the Government of Belize implemented was a rollout of widespread testing. Readers would recall that the Ministry of Health, under the previous United Democratic Party administration, had reserved testing for only those with severe symptoms or those who had been identified, through contact tracing, as persons who had been exposed to the virus, which meant that testing was not available to many who believed that they were infected.
The implementation of widespread testing has allowed officials to more effectively contain the movement of infected persons and, as a result, reduce the spread of the virus. As mentioned, the decreased numbers are attributed largely to the stricter movement measures imposed upon citizens, so the Government is currently engaged in a balancing act to ensure the relaxation of measures does not cause a new wave of infections.
In regards to the most recent COVID-19 numbers, recent data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ daily infographic shows that 11,676 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Belize since the outbreak. Of that number, 425 cases remain active and 10,962 infected persons have recovered. In total, to date, sadly, there have been 289 casualties across the country of Belize due to the coronavirus, which amounts to a fatality rate of 2.48%. As it stands, 93.9% of persons have recovered from the virus.
On January 21, 2021, from a batch of 303 tests processed, 34 new infections were recorded. On that day, there were 13 persons hospitalized as a result of the severe symptoms of this deadly virus, with 2 being admitted to an intensive care unit. A total of 51 persons were recorded as recovered, case distributions show.
Data released on January 20 indicated that 27 new cases across the country were found on that day after a batch of 152 tests was processed. Unfortunately, three more persons — two males and one female— passed away on that day as a result of COVID-19. One of these persons who died was from the Cayo District and the other two from Orange Walk. On January 20, 45 new recoveries were recorded and, of note, the number of new cases in each district was in the single digits.
On January 19, we bade farewell to the contingent of Cuban doctors that had been on the frontline with our medical professional for almost 10 months. The doctors, 59 in total, were given a hero’s send-off just as a new team from the Cuban Medical Brigade arrived in the country. On that day, we recorded 23 new cases countrywide, and a total of 84 people were marked as recovered. One male person from the Belize District died as a result of COVID-19 complications on that day.
Internationally, this deadly virus continues to rip apart economies and health systems, as even the USA, the richest country in the world, struggles to roll out an inoculation program. Efforts in some parts of the United States have stalled, because stocks of the new, life-saving vaccine have run out in many states. In the United Kingdom, a new travel restriction, similar to the one imposed by the US, which mandates a negative test before entry into the country, has been implemented. This comes as the British Isles fights a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus.
Globally, as of January 21, 2021, we have seen a total of 96.2 million confirmed cases. To date, over 50 million persons have recovered from the virus, and over 2 million people have died. These numbers continue to increase each day, with the only hope in sight being an equitable roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine across the world.
In Belize, hopes are that the delivery date for the new vaccine will soon be agreed upon by Ministry of Health and Wellness officials and partners at the Pan American Health Organization and COVAX facility. The President of the International Development Bank shared back in December of 2020 that the goal was set for the vaccine to be delivered before the end of the first quarter of 2021, so it is anticipated that these vaccines will arrive by April.
Until then, the Minister of Health and Wellness continues to urge all citizens to wash their hands or sanitize regularly. Wear a mask at all times in public or when in close contact with anyone outside your immediate family, and constantly practice social distancing.