BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 20, 2020– The global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left nationals of many countries stranded outside their national borders. When Belize locked down its borders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, many Belizeans were left stranded overseas in many parts of the world.
Since there has not been an active case of COVID-19 in Belize for more than a month, and after passing the 28th day period without a case, government had moved to ease some of the national State of Emergency restrictions.
Among the easing of restrictions, government has decided to allow the repatriation of Belizeans who had been locked out of the country when the borders were closed.
In an effort to not create chaos during the return of the Belizeans abroad and to ensure the returns are coordinated in an orderly, safe manner, government has set in place what can be described as a return mechanism.
Today on the government’s webcast, Ask the Experts, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Lou-Anne Burns Martinez, explained the beginning process that must be followed by all Belizeans overseas who wish to return home.
The Foreign Affairs CEO said that each Belizean who wants to return home must go to the Belize COVID-19 website and fill out the online form. This is to ensure that they can return home as soon as possible, in a manner that maximizes the safety both of themselves and Belizeans at home.
Only those who are approved to return, will be included in what the CEO said is a controlled return process for the safety of those who are already in Belize.
Once the on-line application is filled out, the applicant will get a reply and their particulars will be shared with the Ministries of Health and Immigration. Final approval will be issued by the Attorney General and Ministry of National Security, the CEO explained.
Yesterday morning on the News5 morning show Open Your Eyes, Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, explained what Belizeans who return can expect in terms of the health protocols they would have to follow.
Dr. Manzanero said that government already has its plan in place for returning Belizeans.
“…We want to do it in an orderly fashion; we don’t want everybody to come at the same time. So the first undertaking is try to get a census; that’s the reason why people were asked to fill a form: how they will be able to come and where they actually live, because for now, the only entry points will seem to be the northern and western borders, but most come through the northern border station, so we are anticipating that we will be having a higher number,” he said.
“One of the plans is to see if we can move people not only to Orange Walk, but also to Belize City, which is where we have the bigger hotels where people can stay. We would not be screening people with a test upon arrival,” Dr. Manzanero went on to say.
Dr. Manzanero was asked why not.
He explained, “Not unless you have a sign or symptom. And we have had this discussion in the region to see how we would do it and how other countries are doing it. And it doesn’t really make sense to swab on arrival if you are still going to go to a quarantine facility, because we are going to assume that you are negative.
“When we will swab you is at day fourteen, when you are ready to come out, because if you are negative, then you are free to go, because if I swab you and you are negative, you are still going to go to a quarantine facility.”
“So I would not be doing a test upon arrival,” Dr. Manzanero summarized.
Feature photo: Dr. Marvin Manzanero