In the October 2nd edition of this newspaper we noted that information from the Ministry of Health showed we were averaging 236 cases of COVID-19 per week for the six-week period from August 14 to September 25, and that a little over 15% of tests done in Belize yielded COVID-19-positive results. The situation has worsened. In the week of October 25 to November 1 we recorded 381 new cases, and the rate of positives per tests done has increased to 23.1%.
In May of this year the World Health Organization said that a positive rate of less than 5% indicated that a country had the disease under control; by that standard, our positive rate of 23.1% puts us in very dangerous territory. Today, November 3, SARS-CoV-2 is being carried by persons in every city and town, and almost 50% of the villages in our country. We are presently in our election season, less than two weeks away from a general election, and that means all the pieces are in place for a horrible storm of cases that would cause our health system to collapse.
The virus particles that seeded this present terrible state we’re in either came by plane, or across the Hondo River. If it came by way of the Rio Hondo, it could have been stopped if we had locked off the villages on the river and taken the responsible decision to provide for all the needs of the few thousand villagers in these areas. If the virus particles came by plane, they should never have come here.
The authorities owe us a thoroughly researched explanation for how we got to this sorry situation we are in, but more urgent at this time is that all of us increase our efforts to slow down the spread of the disease.
At this time we can’t expect any help from the caretaker incumbents; indeed, they presided over what has transpired. Everyone in the political arena is consumed by the present campaign, and there won’t be a government in place to hopefully make the decisions we need to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 until after mid-November. It’s up to us and our health personnel to step up and save our country.
There is a steady diet of information coming out of the Ministry of Health about the number of new cases every day, and we know that wearing masks, washing our hands, and maintaining six feet between ourselves and others are measures we must observe to reduce the spread of the disease, but that is clearly not enough.
Our people need to know how this disease is spreading in our country. Are the majority of our people getting infected outside of their homes, or are the most infections taking place in our homes? Why aren’t we being reminded about the extra measures we have to take to prevent the spread of the disease at work and at home? Why aren’t our people being bombarded with infomercials warning about the likelihood of asymptomatic spread?
There have been a number of sudden deaths, of relatively young people, and the Ministry of Health has pointed out that some people infected with the disease are not going to the hospital until they are in a critical condition. Why are our people waiting so long to get medical help, and what are we doing to encourage them to get that help?
Almost every report of death caused by SARS-CoV-2 is followed by a statement that the person had underlying health issues. What is being done to impress upon Belizeans the need for us to care for each other? Apart from the pain of families losing loved ones, many of them very much in their prime, we have a small population and we just can’t afford to be losing people when we can prevent it.
What is being done to impress upon our people that increased infections translate to economic losses in every area of our economy, except for businesses that make or buy and sell protective equipment and sanitizers?
Our country was the last on the American mainland to report a case of COVID-19, and we were so proud of ourselves, but the disease is stealthy, and if you let down your guard, which we did, it will spread to every corner. It has, and we are now on the brink of total health collapse.
The independents, third parties that aspire to lead us
Eighty-eight candidates (five independents and eighty-three affiliates of political parties) — thirteen for the Belize People’s Front (BPF), eight for the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), and thirty-one each for the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP), are contesting for seats in our House of Representatives on November 11.
In the realm of independents, we don’t know much about all the candidates, but wherever he is in Stann Creek West we know that ex-UDP Works minister, Melvin Hulse, is talking up a storm, and we know Mrs. Anna Banner Guy (ABG), in Belmopan, because she has made it known all across the nation what her candidacy is about.
ABG is the founder and a director of Belmopan Active Youths (BAY), an organization that works with at-risk youth in Belmopan, and she is a former councilor in a UDP City Council in Belmopan. ABG says she is running as an independent candidate because she can’t countenance the corruption in the big parties, and she is motivated to serve.
The BPF says corruption must not go unpunished. Some other promises of the BPF are: reinstate capital punishment, have an elected Senate, implement mandatory community service for inmates, return Permanent Secretaries as heads of departments in the Public Service, and allow Belizeans living abroad full participation in our country.
The BPP, Belize’s most left-wing party, wants to make Belize a republic, and the party wants to create a Belize where the tax burden is shifted to the multinational corporations that are not contributing, and where measures are in place to ensure 100% contributions from economic citizens and Mennonites.
Some promises of the BPP are to make sure every 18-year-old Belizean owns at least a house lot; to provide low-interest loans to entrepreneurs through the National Bank; to give Belizeans living in the Diaspora the right to vote in general elections; to promote ecotourism; to clean up corruption in government; to encourage farmers to join newly created cooperatives, and to promote backyard gardening.