BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 26, 2020– As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, in Belize we are seeing record numbers of new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. The worst fears of some healthcare workers are slowly becoming a reality, as the facilities in which they work become overwhelmed, and the pandemic has hit home for 129 families who have lost loved ones so far.
During the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) press conference held on Thursday morning, the National Surveillance Officer in the ministry, Laura Perez, said that the “RO” in Belize is currently at 7.
The R0, typically pronounced as the “R naught” rate, is an estimate of how many healthy people one contagious person will infect. An R0 of 7 is extremely high and indicates that one person infected with COVID-19 in Belize will infect 7 others, a major concern for the MOHW, which has now moved to implement updated containment measures.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services, said, “As you know, we have always been monitoring what happens in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, and what happens in Peten, by their numbers. Our R0 and our active case [count] is significantly high in Orange Walk and Corozal, much more than their one.
“Recall that their R0 was similar to ours back perhaps, to the first two weeks of August. So, I don’t know that the risk is there; of course, the less interaction you have overall with other communities, the less likely it is that you will be escalating those numbers, but at this point, I think our R0 is higher than their one, so that is where the concern would be. Perhaps, they should now be concerned about that cross-contamination.”
Recent data presented by the Ministry shows an overall 20% positivity rate in testing results, with over 2,000 samples pending. As of November 26, 54 persons are hospitalized with COVID-19, with 9 receiving critical care. Also, a total of 129 deaths have been recorded to date, a fatality rate of 2.3%.
Data is also showing that men are being infected at twice the rate that women are, and as predicted by Dr. Manzanero, the higher rates of transmission are in the productive sectors, which are the main spreaders of the virus. While elderly ones are highly affected, in regards to COVID-19-related fatalities and serious infections, all age groups are impacted.
An overwhelmed healthcare system is the worst-case scenario. Officials at the head table at the press conference explained that some facilities, specifically in the northern districts, are nearing levels of maximum capacity. And while getting control of the case surge in the northern districts is a main concern for the MOHW, they are also monitoring trends in San Ignacio and Belmopan.
As of November 25, 2020, a total of 5,423 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Belize. Of that number, 2,308 cases remain active; 2,986 infected persons have recovered and 129 persons have died. Numbers from that day show an additional 88 cases, found in a batch of 342 samples, which equates to a positivity rate of 25.7 percent.
Two males and two females died as a result of COVID-19 complications on that day as well. Two of those persons are from the Toledo District, while one is from the Belize District and the other from Cayo. A total of 87 recoveries were recorded on that day. And, on a positive note, on that day, one infected person gave birth, without incident, to a newborn infant.
On November 24, 86 new COVID-19 infections were identified from a batch of 241 samples. Five deaths were recorded on that date — four males and one female, with ages ranging from 53 to 91. Three of these persons are from Corozal, while the other two are from Stann Creek. Two deliveries took place on that day. Both of the COVID-19-positive women who gave birth are from Punta Gorda, and both mothers and babies are doing well, according to the Office of the DHS. Of note, 46 new cases were identified in Dangriga on that day. A total of 22 recoveries were recorded.
Sixty-seven new cases were found on November 23 among a total of 256 samples that were processed, yielding a positivity rate of 26.6%. An additional 4 deaths were recorded on Monday as well, all 4 from Corozal — 3 males and 1 female between the ages of 43 and 72. A total of 35 recoveries were recorded on that day as well.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness continues to encourage all Belizeans to adhere to all prevention measures and protocols in place, and to do their part to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Belize.