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Government relaxes some state of emergency measures ahead of 2-month extension

GeneralGovernment relaxes some state of emergency measures ahead of 2-month extension

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Apr. 24, 2020– There has not been any new confirmed case of the novel coronavirus since April 13, and 5 out of the 18 persons who had tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered, and the remaining patients are at home recovering.

Deaths in Belize from the coronavirus remain at 2 out of the 18 confirmed cases.

With the two areas where community spread of the virus was suspected, in the Belize and Cayo Districts, producing no new positive tests, government has decided to relax some of the measures it implemented in the National State of Emergency.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced yesterday that government will be lifting some of the stiff measures it implemented in its national lockdown to fight against the virus.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte outlined what will be allowed and what will remain in place ahead of government’s move to extend the national State of Emergency, which began on April 1, for two additional months. Peyrefitte made the announcement during the government’s webcast, Meet the Experts.

Beginning this Sunday, April 26, the quarantine of the entire country that came into effect two Sundays ago will cease to be in effect, and shops and other designated businesses will be allowed to remain open.

Peyrefitte explained, “This Sunday, two days from now, will not be that strict Sunday that we’ve been having the last two Sundays, so this Sunday, shops will open, gas stations will open, you could move to help elderly people with their homes, and stuff. Sunday will be just like Monday to Saturday, starting this Sunday, until next week Friday, so you can exercise Sunday morning 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. if you want.

“This Sunday you could go to shop; pharmacies will be open. Remember, previously on a Sunday, only the 24-hour places could open along with essential services. Now, fishing for your livelihood could take place, productive sector places can open, and manufacturers can open on a limited basis, so Sunday will be a regular Sunday, for lack of a better way to put it.”

Peyrefitte went on to explain that the curfew for children under the age of 16 will remain in effect. Therefore, children under the age of 16 are not allowed to be on the streets after 4:00 p.m., even if they are with a parent or guardian.

In addition, the 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew will remain in place.

“You are not allowed to be on the streets unless you are police, BDF, Coast Guard, Customs, Immigration, nurse or doctors who are on duty. Curfew does not change. We still have curfew. If you are out nine in the night and you are not a person who is supposed to be out nine in the night, you are going to jail, because the curfew remains in effect,” Peyrefitte reminded Belizeans.

“The curfew will be in effect right up to next week Thursday when you go sleep. It will be in effect right until then,” stated Peyrefitte.

Apart from the opening of shops and other designated businesses, public transportation for essential workers will resume. The movement from district to district of those who are not essential workers, however, is still not being allowed.

“Public transportation providers will now be allowed to operate again. When I say public transportation providers, we talk about bus, water taxi, the planes like Maya or Tropic. They can now move, but let me make a clarification again. If you travelling on water taxi, bus or a small plane you still can’t leave Belize City to casually hang out at “The Split” in Caye Caulker this Sunday. We are not there yet. You can only use that to go Caye Caulker if you have one of the things I read earlier, for medical reasons or for something that you have to do. We are not at the stage as yet where we can be casual. We are not there yet. Hopefully we can get there soon, and if we continue the way we are going we will get there, but we are not there yet.

“Now, construction from five to seven and construction sites are once again allowed to operate. Pharmacies, markets, convenience stores can now open from eight in the morning to seven in the night once again,” he said.

Peyrefitte said that barber shops, beauty salons, gymnasiums and casinos have not been given the green light to open as yet. Also, discotheques, spas, rum shops, bars and night clubs will remain closed.

Restaurants will be allowed to open for take-out and delivery of food. The opening hours for restaurants all over the country are from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Peyrefitte added, “If you are a registered business and you sell tacos and you make it at home and have people come and pick it up, but to say put it outside — let’s wait. You are a food vendor, so if you make tacos and sell it, you are allowed to make it and sell it, but I would advise that you do it from a safe place where you only take out. Don’t sit down on the side and eat it right at the tacos place, although for some reason, that’s what makes it nicer, but you can’t do that, you have to take it away.”

Peyrefitte explained that “… government offices will be open on Monday: Office of the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, AG’s ministry, the judiciary of Belize, Ministry of Health, Human Development, Food and Agriculture, Ministry of the Public Service, Works Department, Department of Transport, Press Office, Belize Gazette, Bureau of Standards, Tax Services, Karl Heusner Hospital, Office of the DPP, Treasury Department, Central Bank of Belize, Department of Civil Aviation, Belize Airport Authority, Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA), Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, Social Security Board, City Councils and Town Councils and Diplomatic Missions. These will be open on Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. But not the Ministry of Natural Resources. It’s only essential services at this point.”

The Opposition People’s United Party issued a press release this afternoon saying that it is opposed to the 60-day extension of the State of Emergency.

The PUP press release said, “The last reported positive case in Belize was on the 13th April, 2020. The PUP has consulted medical experts who have advised that if there are no new positive cases for the next 30 days, it would be safe to lift the State of Emergency. In this circumstance, as a Party, we support a 30-day State of Emergency.”

“Most importantly, during the State of Emergency, the land borders must remain closed and airports must remain closed to international passenger flights. COVID-19 has brought the Belizean economy to a virtual standstill. The PUP calls on the government to implement a measured ‘opening up’ so as to spur economic activities. It is necessary to strike equilibrium between well-being of the population and public health and safety,” the release said.

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