US Follows Canada Requiring COVID Testing For Returning International Flights

Effective January 7, in response to the new and more aggressive strains of COVID, Canada required that all citizens and visitors returning to the country require a negative PCR  (or LAMP) test within 72 hours of departure.  This is in addition to a required 14-day quarantine when returning to the country.

Read the official announcement from Canada here.

And then yesterday – to the surprise of many…including me…the United States’ Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a similar announcement.  Starting January 26th, all travelers to the US (citizens, residents, visitors) will require a 72-hour negative PCR test before boarding their international flights to the USA.  The big difference is that the US WILL accept a PCR (NAAT) test or antigen/rapid test OR documentation that you had COVID and recovered in the last few months.  This last part should remove some of the fear of lingering positives and/or false positives.)

Here are the requirements and frequently asked questions from the CDC.

This announcement has a far bigger effect on the travel industry in Belize.  Since Americans are the biggest percentage of travelers to Belize (by far) and there are only flights from the US coming to Belize right now.  (All flights from Canada have been canceled or postponed for the time being)

Here is a useful article to me:  Rapid (antigen) vs. PCR test

So…if you have a trip planned to Belize – what are your options?  I am working on ALL of them – and we have not heard from the Belize Tourism Board but here is what I’ve found for Ambergris Caye.

It’s very possible that the Govt of Belize was as caught off guard by this announcement as everyone else!

Dr Danny Gonzalez’s office in town offers Rapid Tests only – results ready in 15 to 20 minutes.   Cost $190bzd.  (His office is quite busy during they day)  226-2660

The Belize Medical Associates at Grand Caribe (about 1.5 north of town) is also doing Rapid Tests.  Ready in up to half an hour.  Cost $250bz.  They can deliver your results via email or in person.  (Much less busy, generally)

Dr. Giovanni Solorazano at the San Carlos Clinic is expecting more tests in this afternoon.  He estimates the cost of the rapid test will be between $200-250bzd.  226-2918

In Belize City:  Belize Healthcare Partners, Rapid Antigen Test available without appointment during these hours.  (Results are up to 2 hours)

M-F 8 to 330pm  $150bzd

M-F 4 to 6pm and Sat. 8am to noon, $210bzd

Any requests outside of those hours, $255bzd.

My thoughts!  I’m hoping the Belize Tourism Board issues some information on this quickly.  It is recommended that everyone come into Belize with a negative test – but if you are not able to get one in the states, they can give one at the airport on your arrival.  And the cost is $50US.  (Possible but not recommended – because if you test positive, you are going into quarantine – and that is no way to vacation.  Potentially sick and confined to a hotel room)

Here are the regulations for entering Belize right now.

So…I’m hoping that the BTB can figure out a way to give the rapid tests at the airport also.  So that those who were unable to get a test in their location (whether it’s a smaller caye or a jungle lodge) can get to the airport early and get their test.

I’ll let you know what I find out!

It’s great that we are all being more careful about spreading the disease for sure – but this is, without a doubt, will be a bit of logistical mess and will slow down the very limited recovery that Belize was hoping for.

Update January 13 evening:  The BTB sent out a message to stakeholders saying that they are working on expansion of testing.  Not details yet but….stay tuned!

You can see the announcment here.

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