BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 30, 2020– Enforcing the social distancing requirements that governments in many countries around the world have established in their fight to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, appears to be the new “normal” in the world at present as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Belize, the Police Department is fully engaged in efforts to enforce social distancing rules that were laid down by the government to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.
Over the weekend, more than a dozen Belizeans, from all across the country, have found themselves on the wrong side of the law when it comes to following the guidelines that the government laid out in the Quarantine Regulations that were introduced last Thursday.
In the Toledo District, at least two persons were ordered to pay hefty fines in the region of $1,000 for their failure to comply with social distancing guidelines.
According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, over a dozen persons were charged as his officers stepped up their efforts to enforce the social distance rules and guidelines.
Williams revealed to the media that among those charged are two Bowen and Bowen employees, and two gas station attendants in Ladyville, as well as the owners of two liquor licensed premises which remained opened illegally.
Statutory Instrument No. 38 of 2020 spells out the quarantine guidelines. The regulations state that ”Persons must not gather in numbers greater than 10 in public and private property and maintaining a social distance of no less than 3 feet apart (except where the persons live on the property).”
The businesses allowed to open must have the three-foot distance clearly marked in front of the counter and outside where persons queue before gaining entrance into such businesses. Section 7 of the Quarantine Act Chapter 41 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, categorizes as an offense any violation of the Quarantine Emergency Measures, directives and orders of the Quarantine Authority.
Section 7 states: “(1) Any person who, (a) refuses to answer or knowingly gives an untrue answer to any inquiry made under the authority of this Act, or intentionally withholds any information reasonably required of him by any officer or other person acting under the the authority of this Act, or knowingly furnishes to any such officer or other people any information which is false;
“(b) refuses or willfully omits to do any act which he is required to do by this Act, or refuses or willfully omits to carry out any lawful order, instruction or condition made, given or imposed by any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act; or
“(c) assaults, resists, willfully obstructs, or intimidates any officer or other person acting under the authority of this Act, or offers or gives a bribe to any officer or person in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or being such officer or person, demands, solicits or takes a bribe in connection with his powers or duties under this Act, or otherwise obstructs the execution of this Act, is guilty of an offense and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for six months, or to both.
“(2) Any person who is guilty of any other offense against this Act is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for six months or to both.”
Section 10 states: “(1) It shall be the duty of every member of the Police Department to enforce, using force if necessary, compliance with this Act and with any order, instruction or condition lawfully made, given or imposed by any officer or other person under the authority of this Act, and for such purpose, any member of the Police Department may board any ship or aircraft and may enter any premises without a warrant.
“Any member of the Police Department may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to have committed any offense against this Act.”
In this section, “member of the Police Department” includes a member of any police organization constituted by law who has the general powers of a member of the Police Department.
The Belize Police Department, therefore, calls on all citizens to work with them “by ensuring full compliance with the measures being implemented with a view to ensure that we keep our country free from [the] COVID 19 virus”. Any person found in violation of these measures and in particular the social distancing measure will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.