News is coming out quickly in Belize – if you are just interested in today’s press conference skip to #3. For some more background and the big picture, read below.
Where We Were At the End of June – Very Cautious Optimism
At midnight July 1st, 2020- after 3 months of various degrees of COVID-careful restrictions in Belize – the State of Emergencies were lifted across the country.
Case numbers had stayed low, our country had experienced 2 deaths and we (and the world it seemed) were looking forward with cautious, measured hope for the future.
Here is the Health Ministry’s graphic for July 3rd.
The re-opening of Belize’s schools was announced for August 10th – and preparations began. The re-opening of Belize’s International Airport was announced for August 15th – and protocols and restrictions were being rolled out almost weekly as we all watched as some other airports around the Caribbean re-opened.
What precautions were working? What were clearly not? ** See below for some information on other country re-openings around the Caribbean. (Costa Rica is the only other Central American country open to International flights and right now they are only accepting travelers from Canada and the EU – see this post for other protocols and restrictions that are in place)
Back to Belize: Through July, we saw numbers start to creep up…from those arriving repatriation flights (Belizeans returning to the country on repat flights, getting tested and going into quarantine) – SAFE – and border jumpers from Mexico and Guatemala – clearly UNSAFE.
Things felt like they were under control in Belize – we were readying for a controlled re-opening of the airport – readying with very mixed feelings.
This Week Things Changed – Airport Re-Opening Postponed
Yesterday, August 5th, our Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, held a press conference to make official what many of us had been hearing. There were two new cases in San Pedro – and there seemed to be quite a bit of spread. Over 50 tests had been taken – and we were awaiting results. There were cases in the Orange Walk District in the NW Corner of Belize. More testing was being done there.
The International Airport would NOT open as planned on August 15 – canceled with no re-opening date.
Our schools would NOT be opening on August 10th.
All re-openings would be scheduled based on the numbers – we need to get these numbers down before we can re-open school or the country to visitors.
Here was our updated chart.
He told us he’d be coming back with details on any lock-downs or regs…
August 6th Press Conference Updates – The Newest News
Cases/tests are still being processed – but for now, there are 14 cases mentioned yesterday are confirmed (13 in San Pedro). There are three clusters id’ed.
Preliminary results are 23 more positive cases – 19 on Ambergris Caye.
Results are STILL PENDING.
Continue physical distancing, staying home when you can
Prime Minister’s Message:
“We have decided that we will implement an emergency proclamation for the entire country of Belize” – but the regulations will differ for Ambergris Caye.
There will be another set of regulations for the Orange Walk district where the other outbreak is being traced.
All go into effect at midnight tonight.
FOR Ambergis Caye – COMPLETE QUARANTINE FOR 14 DAYS. No one off, no one on the island. Curfews in place. Adults 8pm to 4:59am.
Cease construction. Gatherings of 10 or under. General restriction of movement – limited to essential services only. Bars and nightclubs closed.
Orange Walk – Quarantine Santa Marta Village, Guinea Grass and Shipyard Villages (similar to restrictions on Ambergris Caye)
For Entire Country – Bars and Nightclubs closing countrywide. But casinos can stay open (no smoking or drinking). Gatherings limited to 25. Limit on buses to seating capacity – and wearing of masks.
There will be SERIOUS charges for those crossing the border illegally OR dealing in contraband or just in the possession of contraband.
IF YOU HAVE CORONA BEER (illegal vegetables, products, anything) – YOU CAN BE CHARGED AS A BORDER JUMPER. 6 months in jail. No bail! PM says “if it sounds Draconian, that’s because it IS Draconian”
The details full details on the State of Emergency were detailed by the Attorney General at 830pm August 6th. Additional details for “Lock Down Areas” – San Pedro and OW villages of Guinea Grass, Shipyard and Santa Marta
Attorney General is “very angry that we are here” – and because of “our foolishness we are here” – people taking regulations “for a joke”. Let me telling you something “you will NOT be laughing” going forward. Police “will be aggressive within the law” – “no one play!”
- Curfew from 8 pm to 5 am – only allowed out if you are police or government officials ON DUTY. If arrested, $5000 fine or 1 year in jail. (No ‘sweetheart’ passes)
- No child out alone from 6pm to 8pm – “if 6 o’clock catch you”…you are in trouble
- Fuel Stations and Butane Sales can open for 7am to 6pm
- Fishing for livelihood only, NO MORE SPORT FISHING or LEISURE FISHING
- Food stores, tortillas, pharmacies, bakeries, convenience stores, banks, basic services are able to operate
- No dining in a restaurant – only take-out or delivery
- No more sporting activities, basketball, soccer
- Gyms, hotels, spas must close
- No construction – basic maintenance, yes, construction, NO
STAY AT HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, MASKS WHEN OUT FOR ESSENTIAL NEEDS, SOCIAL DISTANCING
The Police are going to “crack down”!
If you own a shop (or drive a taxi) and you allow someone to come in your shop without a mask, YOU WILL BE CHARGED ALSO.
The rest of the country has a looser curfew, bars & nightclubs are also CLOSED, restaurants are open for dining but no more than 25 people – and they are restaurants ONLY, not bars.
Where to Get the Official Information on COVID in Belize?
The official information on the cases in Belize can be found with Belize’s Ministry of Health.
The information provided by the Belize Tourism Board – the protocols for arrivals in Belize – is the most official information for those planning a trip to Belize. You can find that here.
Where to Get All the Local News/I Want to Drill Down for Even More Information?
Unlike many countries who are on a ALL BREAKING NEWS 24 HOUR A DAY news cycle, Belize’s TV news is on at 6pm each day – but only during the week.
I like Channel 7 News – they do a recap each night of their program that makes it easy to run through the headline.
Other Caribbean Countries Re-Opening of Tourism:
There is a GREAT article in the New York Times about tourism in the Caribbean right now. To have no visitors right now brings immense and possibly ruinous hardship to these tourism reliant economies – but how to weigh that against the risk of bringing the virus to places that are ill-prepared to handle an outbreak?
It’s a risk/reward balance that different countries and cultures and individuals are viewing differently…that is littered with false information and false narratives, that none of us knows the RIGHT answer to.
At least with a hurricane, we do our best to prepare, it comes or it doesn’t, it destroys, you can assess the damage and make a plan…this uncertainty makes this all IMPOSSIBLE.
Here is a COMPREHENSIVE spreadsheet with information around the Caribbean. (last updated a few days ago)
22 countries have opened their borders – 14 to Americans.
What you can see just scrolling through the extensive spreadsheet is that this is NOT an easy decision process…to open or not open. Each country has extensive rules and often changing protocols.
The Bahamas welcomed international visitors on July 1st – and then closed to US flights on July 22nd – and then imposed a complete national lockdown on August th due to the surging number of cases
It’s a crazy juggling act.
Ways You Can Help Those in Belize
The island of Ambergris Caye has been closed since the last week of March – and for most of us, zero tourism means zero income.
There are a number of funds set up to help feed and assist those in San Pedro – there are also a bunch of restaurants and businesses that are helping others. There is little to no government assistance of any kind here in Belize.
Here are fundraisers for those in need:
Two set up yesterday for Flyfishing Guides:
I will work to update this as I get more information!