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Health Minister speaks on curfew extension, Omicron wave and transition

GeneralHealth Minister speaks on curfew extension, Omicron wave and transition

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 17, 2022– During an interview on Friday, the newly appointed Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Kevin Bernard, informed the public that the curfew regulations currently in place will be extended for an additional month. He said that the Statutory Instrument (SI) which put the curfew and other current Covid-19 prevention measures in place will remain basically the same, except for a relaxation in restrictions on sporting activities, which can now be held publicly, although the number of persons attending such events should not exceed 50% of the venue’s capacity. He shared, however, that he is to meet with the COVID-19 response team today to take a look at the whole situation and determine if any additional changes to the regulations would be needed.

“We are going to ensure that that section of the SI, all other regulations will remain the same except that we are now going to allow for 50% in terms of sports. It’s something that as the Minister of Sports at the time, I have lobbied over and over and we have been saying it over and over, get vaccinated, and so we have said that if you are in an enclosed location, for example the Civic Centre, you want to have a basketball event, it must be at 50% of the population can be there, and it must be placed the necessary 6-feet regulation, social distancing, proper markers must be put in place, so that it’s controlled,” Bernard stated during his interview.

Increased enforcement of COVID-19 measures are also needed within local businesses, which are currently being battered by the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — with as many as 90% of all companies in Belize being affected by staff shortages due to Covid-19 infections, local reports say. Minister Bernard said that he will meet with the Senior Public Health Inspector to assess the issue of enforcement in the public, since he has received reports from COVID enforcement officers who are trying to ensure that people follow guidelines.

“One of the challenges I, we, have is that some people are not taking them serious, and I think that we have to strengthen that. I think we have to look at working closely with the police to ensure that police is also assisting in the enforcement of the laws that exist and the regulations, so it’s a matter of concern which I have raised, and I will be discussing that with the CEO and the team,” Minister Bernard said during his interview.

He added, “We’re at a stage where Omicron is creating rampage across the country; we don’t know all who are walking out there with Covid-19 because of the Omicron and the level of symptoms that it offers, minimal to mild.”

Minister Bernard takes on the tasks of heading the ministry at a pivotal time in the Covid-19 pandemic, as a new, highly transmissible variant rips through the population and at a time when the Ministry is lacking key technical personnel. He said that filling those posts will be his first priority. Minister Bernard disagrees with remarks made in some quarters that the Health Minister must be a doctor, and noted that sound administrative capacity to lead the ministry is key.

“I think that the Minister of Health and any Minister that leads this ministry should be someone that has the administrative capacity. You leave the technical work to technical people, and that’s why the CEO and the head of units, these are the doctors, these are the persons that know the profession. These are the people that will guide. While the criticism may be, ‘oh, the minister is not a doctor,’ I have had the experience managing a town for 3 years, I’ve had experience in many areas, but trust me, I am here committed to work for the best interest of this ministry,” he said.

In regard to the transition occurring within the ministry as a change in leadership takes place, Minister Bernard said that there is no bad blood between the previous Health Minister, Hon. Chebat, and himself, adding that they have already met to exchange notes.

“So, I can only expect that will continue, and like both of us shared when we sat down together, that we are here to work with each other. He understands as well what were some of the challenges, and he is sharing some of his experiences with me, and where we can make better improvements on some of those things. So, there is no such animosity,” Minister Bernard said.

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