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September in Belize: A Weekend Round-Up

What might normally be a quiet early September Monday morning in Belize – back to school, the real kick-off to Belize’s Independence MONTH celebrations…is neither of those things.  (September 10th is the first of 2 national holidays in Belize celebrating our country’s Independence)

Sept 10th:  Battle of St George’s Caye and the “normal” celebrations in San Pedro 

This year…well…you know the general story (Worldwide pandemic, global recession/depression…etc.).  But in Belize specifically, school is being done via paper handouts (for the younger kids) and on-line for the older ones.  COVID cases are still on the rise (though they seem to have leveled out for Ambergris Caye).  And the September celebrations?  The time of parades and pageants, parties and 21 gun salutes?  Almost all of it is either canceled or virtual.

These are some CRAZY times.

Here are my updates.

COVID and Warning from Government

The month of August started with under 50 diagnosed positives cases (in total) for the entire country of Belize.  And then…whether it was border jumpers or a private plane coming from the states…or both.  Many people around the country were being lax about large gatherings, about wearing masks, about social distancing and…here we are now.

Our island spent most of August in “total island lock-down” and as of September 1st, regulations have loosened.  But not much.  The GOB removed the curfew.

But we are still limited gatherings of 10 people, bars, restaurants, nightclubs are closed.  Masks, of course, are required.

Over the weekend, we received this warning from the Ministry of Health:

“We are also deeply troubled by the ongoing reports of social gathering and events across the country that involve members who aren’t from the same household and this include reports of those who are positive still being out in public and attending social events. While all relevant partners continue to follow these cases and reports, it remains a monumental task if we don’t have the cooperation from all as our human resources are being stretched to the limit with also ensuring full compliance from all cases.

We can only flatten any curve if WE ALL do our part and we thank all those who to do theirs.”

Our ENTIRE economy depends on a successful re-opening of the airport and a re-building of the tourist industry – we haven’t really even started to see business closings here on the island YET.  For the sake of our entire country – please GET IT TOGETHER!

As Brent Toombs (who runs an AMAZING Monday morning podcast about Belize – NOT the tourist side – as you’ll see from this week’s episode) said on a Facebook post:

“I get it. You miss your parties, and nightclubs, and socializing. It’s been a rough month for you since they closed the bars.

You know what I miss? Earning a living. And going grocery shopping without worrying that I am going to catch a virus that will kill me.”

Expansion of Phase 3 – Tourist Arrivals

The Government of Belize is opening the International Airport on October 1st.  And the Prime Minister sounded 100% certain that nothing – other than a crippling hurricane – would stop that from going forward.

The October 1st announcement comes with lots of BUTs.  Regulations and requirements to enter the country on that date.  You can read the process here but the biggest impediment to those looking to vacation in Belize during this PHASE 3 is that you will be on a very limited vacation.  (You will be required to spend your time at a Gold Standard Resort – in a ‘tourist corridor’ – only leaving for approved tours.)

And that could be exactly what you are looking for.  It would be absolutely perfect if you are staying at a jungle lodge or on a private island….but would be tough…very tough…if you are staying in the midst of Placencia Village or Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye.  Places where half the fun is exploring the area.

This last week, the Belize Tourism Board EXPANDED who could qualify for the Gold Standard List.  Here is the wording.

Dear Stakeholders,

With the announcement of the reopening of the international airport set for October 1st, the National Oversight Committee (NOC) has expanded the range of properties that will be eligible to reopen during Phase 3, within the Tourism Safe Corridor. Phase 3 is now therefore open to accommodations which offer the following on their premises:

Full-service restaurant and bar; OR
Fully furnished kitchen with the ability to offer grocery delivery services for guests; OR
Establish an agreement with a licensed restaurant or catering service to provide daily meals for guests

Additionally, properties must also have a pool and/or beachfront access, on-site guest entertainment/activities (games, gym, spa), and the ability to provide guided tours for guests. During this “safe corridor’ phase, properties will still be required to manage and control the movements of their guests as guests will not be permitted to explore the country on their own.

This seems to be a process that is in constant flux.  We have no information, so far, on when they are considering opening up travel to all.  And I’m going to assume that this “limited re-opening” is going to be quite limited indeed.

Just an FYI – Belize is FAR from the only country with this sort of set-up for the opening of tourism.  The Bahamas also has a slow re-opening plan that goes into Phase 3 on October 15 – when tourists will have to do a 14-day “Vacation-in-place” stay before they can exit their hotels.

Weather

Last weekend, Hurricane Nana hit Southern Belize as a weak Category One Hurricane.  Hopkins, Belize was just about the eye of the storm – and they was some damage. To docks, 10 homes lost roofs, and plenty of trees were downed but there were no serious injuries.  Thank goodness.

We are approaching the statistical apex of the hurricane season in the Atlantic – I think the exact date is September 11.

And unfortunately, September and October are the busiest times for Belize.  The weather over this past weekend was a beautiful mix…dark clouds, bright sun and HEAVY overnight rains.  SO KEEP YOUR EYES on the NHC site.  (Nothing for the next few days but Paulette just got named far out in the Atlantic)

Here are a few weekend pictures from my neck of the woods…

The only real residual from the Hurricane in San Pedro – excess sea grass washing up on the beach.





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