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MOHW relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for the unvaccinated

GeneralMOHW relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for the unvaccinated

The Ministry of Health & Wellness is planning on making numerous changes when it comes to how it’s addressing the pandemic, including allowing unvaccinated persons to leave the country, pushing for increased vaccine rates, and approving the use of at-home testing kits.

By Khaila Gentle

BELMOPAN, Thurs. June 30, 2022

The Ministry of Health & Wellness is taking further steps toward completely removing all COVID-19 regulations, and according to Minister Kevin Bernard, unvaccinated persons are now allowed to freely move across the country’s borders.

In speaking with the media on Thursday, the Minister of Health revealed that the Ministry is planning to go to Cabinet with a proposal that all Covid-19 restrictions be lifted—the reason being, he said, that it is now up to individuals to determine what’s best for themselves. 

“There’s a Cabinet paper already drafted with that position and recommendation that we remove all restrictions. I’m saying that here, but it’s not a decision that has been made by Cabinet. However, there is an internal policy decision that has been made between our Ministry and the Ministry of Immigration to allow for unvaccinated people to move across borders on the requirement that upon return they must present a negative test,” said Hon. Bernard.

The new policy that allows Belizeans to travel out of the country without being vaccinated comes alongside continued efforts by the Ministry to get persons—both in the adult and pediatric populations—vaccinated.

He told reporters that the decision was made because hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 have decreased significantly, as has the number of fatalities.

“The analysis that has been given to us at the Ministry and to me by our key people in the Ministry is that there’s zero to minimal hospitalizations reported, and the cases and the tests that have been done have proven that it is mainly the BA.1and BA.2 sub-variants, and so there’s little to no major effects on people,” he stated.

“We feel that it has reached a level where it is now your personal responsibility to decide whether you want to be vaccinated or not—the country has continued and people have to continue,” he added.

In countries around the world, even as new, albeit less deadly, strains of the COVID-19 Omicron variant cause case numbers to rise, restrictions have been lifted. Just recently, in early June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rescinded its requirement for passengers traveling to the US to show proof that they are COVID-19 negative. That decision was made because, according to the CDC, the pandemic has “shifted to a new phase”.

As part of that “new phase”, the Ministry of Health & Wellness is also planning to allow the use of at-home COVID-19 testing kits.

“I think one of the next steps that we are going to do is to allow people to bring in their own tests so that it could be purchased at the pharmacy and you could buy it just like you have to go and—once somebody is pregnant, they go and do their pregnancy test, they buy their test over the counter. We should be able to do that very soon,” explained Minister Bernard.

The Ministry has already approved in some cases the importation of at-home tests. And according to Hon. Bernard, pharmacists can apply for permission to import such tests if they wish to do so.

“Again, the idea is that we are leaving it now into the responsibility of the individual. If you feel that—if I for example, if I feel that I am under the weather, not feeling well, and I have a rapid test, I test myself,” he said.

The Minister of Health did note, however, that they will need to ensure those test results can be tracked and reported to the regional hospitals.

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