Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ambergris Caye under quarantine; priority given to symptomatic patients

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Residents of San Pedro Town in Ambergris Caye woke up on Friday, August 7th to a 14-day quarantine following an alarming spike in cases of COVID-19.  The increase in cases on the island is attributed to community transmission, with further cases to be confirmed. The most vulnerable are being prioritized as islanders continue to flock to the Mar de Tumbo flu clinic for testing. Commercial activities on the island are slowing down, as the lockdown came with strict restrictions, including curfew and the closure of several businesses and construction projects.

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With an additional 17 cases confirmed late on Friday, Ambergris Caye now counts with 50 active cases, and contact tracing by the health authorities on the island continues. The spread of the virus has prompted a large number of residents to seek testing. However, due to the severity of the situation, priority is being given to those displaying symptoms, as opposed to asymptomatic persons.

Symptomatic patients and those most vulnerable to get tested first

Long lines of persons waiting to be tested were observed outside the Mar de Tumbo flu clinic. Residents complained of the delay in getting access to the services after waiting for several hours. Indeed, what is happening is that only those persons with severe symptoms are being given priority. According to the Ministry of Health, there are three active clusters on the island and the health facilities may become overwhelmed.

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Thus, the most vulnerable, especially the elderly and those with chronic diseases will be tended to first. Asymptomatic persons suspecting that they have been in close contact with an infected person are advised to call 672-0911 and follow instructions. Primarily, they are asked to stay home and continue practicing the guidelines of washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing.

One young man waiting to be tested, shared with The San Pedro Sun that his entire family is on the radar. He said the testing process has been slow and long, as he waited for hours before getting the opportunity to be swabbed. “They told us that people with no symptoms like myself and dad should just go into self-isolation,” he said. He added that his mother and little sister were swabbed almost immediately, as they are symptomatic.

State of Emergency on the island

Ambergris Caye’s State of Emergency falls under a national Emergency Proclamation, the regulations on the island with the aim to contain the virus are different.

Quarantine regulations for the island include:

Curfew: 8PM-4:59AM | Children’s Curfew 5PM -7:59AM

Gatherings of no more than 10 persons, with physical distancing

Construction activity will have to cease

Restriction of movement outside of curfew hours limited to essential needs and essential services. Only emergency movements will be permitted during curfew hours.

Government offices will be closed.

Banks, grocery stores, and utility companies will be allowed to remain open.

Bars, discotheques, nightclubs, lounges, must be closed during this State of Emergency

Enforcement on travel to and from the island will be primarily at the hands of the Belize Coast Guard.

Movement on the island is slowing down as people are taking precautions and only leaving their homes for essential needs. A number of businesses remain open, like grocery stores, where persons must wash their hands at temporary sinks outside the establishments and having a mask on is imperative to do shopping. Some businesses have decided to close, and some pharmacies are leaving notes outside their premises with emergency contact numbers.

Other areas in lockdown

The communities of Santa Martha, Guinea Grass and Shipyard in the Orange Walk District have also been placed under a 14-day quarantine because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. The regulations in those communities include:

Bars, disco, and night clubs CLOSED

Curfew from 10PM- 4:49AM and 12AM- 4:59AM on weekends

Casinos will be allowed to operate, but no smoking or drinking is allowed

Social Gatherings is limited to 25 maximum

Under strict regulations, public transportation will continue its operations

While the health crisis on the island continues to be monitored, the majority of the infected are expected to quarantine at home to avoid overwhelming medical facilities. The only time hospitalization will be needed is when respiratory complications begin to affect the patient.

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