Monday, June 17, 2024

Belize’s plan to face COVID-19 after PGIA opens as cases increase in nearby Mexico, Guatemala and the USA

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The Government of Belize is looking forward to re-open the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) on August 15th and welcome international visitors. The decision to open one of the main ports of entry into the country is an attempt to revive the tourism industry killed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

covid-19 chetumal

However, without properly equipped medical facilities in the country, and with the increase in cases beyond the borders (Mexico, the United of States of America and Guatemala) many believe the country might be gambling with the health of Belizeans.

Just across the northern border is the Mexican City of Chetumal in the State of Quintana Roo, where, by Friday, July 17th, there were 1,406 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. The total number of cases in the State was 5,780 and over 700 deaths have been associated with the virus. Chetumal and the southern part of Quintana Roo has a growth rate of 4.45, placing the area in the ‘red’ and requiring a lockdown to mitigate spreading even further. It is known that some health centers are not taking any additional patients. The surge in the disease has not spilled over to Belize, however border jumpers have brought almost a dozen of cases into the country, prompting more enforcement along the Belize-Mexico border.

In Guatemala, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, and by Friday, there were 32,939 cases, with 1,404 related deaths. Among the dead was a four-month baby, who died in a hospital in Guatemala City. The majority of cases are in municipalities far from Belize’s borders, however, the cases are increasing every day.

Meanwhile in the United States of America, there are over three million infected and over 141,000 people have died. On Thursday, July 16th, more than 70,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported. States like Texas and Florida continue to report a continued surge of cases, with many local hospitals reaching their capacity.

Belize’s plan to face any potential cases after the PGIA opens

The plans in Belize so far have focused on detecting infected persons from the time they arrive at the PGIA. Passengers will be required to get a PCR COVID-19 test done 72 hours before arrival. If they do not have one, a rapid test will be done at the airport and the person will be allowed to continue to his/her destination if the tests results are negative. If it is positive, the person will be quarantined at their own expense. Travellers will also be required to download the ‘Belize Health App’ and fill in the information necessary before heading to Belize. The passenger will receive a code, which will be used for contact tracing while in the country. When in Belize, all visitors are required to adhere to Belize’s health protocols, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Those tourists that are allowed to enter the country will be required to stay at approved hotels with the Tourism Gold Standard Certification of Recognition. These hotels will be required to provide all the necessary services to tourists to contain them on the said properties. These include providing transportation to the resort, in house restaurants, pools, or beachfront. This is to minimize any interactions within the community. Belizeans returning home and testing negative will be allowed to head home, where they are required to stay indoors for up to 14 days before they take another test to clear them to move freely.

Health resources

When it comes to beds and medical resources to treat a wave of COVID-19, no clear indications have been provided by government as to where the country stands on such an important detail. The recent information from the Ministry of Health on July 1st, is that its Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero was assessing how many beds and ventilators the country has available.

According to him, Belize is expecting some ventilators to be donated by foreign entities, while the Republic of China (Taiwan) has also facilitated some of this important equipment. Manzanero said that at the moment, the only ventilation system will be set up by the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City, at the Western Regional Hospital and at the hospital in the Orange Walk District. Other than this information, no plan has been revealed on how the health authorities will handle community transmission of the virus within the country.

covid-19 belizeBelize has seen a slight increase in COVID-19 from border jumpers and Belizeans returning home. All these cases have been contained and the patients confined to quarantine facilities. Most of the cases have appeared in the Orange Walk District, where a State of Emergency was enforced in two villages (San Felipe and Blue Creek) following seven cases believed to be caused by border jumpers.

Belize has recorded a total of 40 cases, with 22 recovered, and only two deaths. With the current increase in cases, there are 16 active cases that are being closely monitored by health authorities.

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