Health Officials in Belize Say Omicron Has Reached Belizean Shores

BELMOPAN, Belize – Belize health authorities says it appears that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reached the country and that while the cases are appearing to be mild, “the rapid rise in cases in the country remains a significant concern and a threat to the health system”.

pascoVIDThe Ministry of Health & Wellness in a statement, said that the pattern of the COVID-19 cases has changed and that “currently, the majority of cases present upper airway symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat associated with a mild fever and/or muscle aches and pains”.

It said that these cases are increasing exponentially with a leap in the positivity rate from 2.5 to 16 in a very short period of time and that while “genomic sequencing is pending, epidemiologically, it appears to be the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“Although cases are appearing to be mild when compared to the Delta variant, the rapid rise in cases in the country remains a significant concern and a threat to the health system. It is imperative that the public is aware that, clinically, the Omicron virus is in the country and therefore must strengthen public health and social measures at home and workplaces.”

The ministry said that it is urging members of the public to continue to follow strict public health and social measures by wearing a properly fitted face mask at all times in public, washing and sanitizing hands regularly, maintaining proper physical distance and avoiding crowds and enclosed areas.

It said that the public is reminded that gathering and socializing in large groups are prohibited and that bars and nightclubs remain closed.

“The COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, remain very effective at preventing severe symptoms of this disease and death. Boosters are being offered three months after the second dose of the two-dose vaccines and two months after the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen single-dose vaccine. Please speak to the ministry staff at any of the vaccine sites for more information.”

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister, Anthony Mahler, is optimistic that the Omicron variant will not wreak havoc on Belize’s tourism industry and the local economy as other variants have in the past.

His comments come on the day that the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans not travel by cruise ship even if vaccinated for COVID-19.

Cases aboard a number of cruise ships using US cruise ports are being investigated and several Caribbean countries are also turning cruise ships.

The Belize Tourist Board (BTB) in a statement said that Thursday was the busiest cruise day of 2021 with six ships docking here. It said the total number of arrivals was 14,000 passengers.

Mahler told News 5 television that he is confident the cruise industry will regulate itself, adding however that if a decision is made to close Belize to cruise passengers, the companies will have to comply.

“We’ll keep focused and we’ll do what we have to do to ensure that we don’t fall back as much as we have in the past, when different variants came about, but I don’t think this one will be as bad as the past one.

“The cruise lines will do everything possible to have their passengers as safe as possible. If you’re walking through an airport, you can have a spread. If you go anywhere, if you go to a restaurant, you can have a spread. So I’m sure that the cruise lines don’t want a no-sale order to be placed on them again.”

He said that the cruise lines can’t afford that and that ‘they are billions and billions of dollars in debt and so they will do what is necessary to have their passengers as safe for cruising to continue.

He said Belizean stakeholders are meeting with the Operations Committee for the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association “but we won’t take any position quickly.

“We’ll look at what information we have on the table and we’ll make the right decision for Belize. If we say that you can’t come, then you can’t come; but at this point, we’re not saying that. We work closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure that our population is safe and our visitors are safe.”