Prime Minister Briceño of Belize Defends Re-Opening Land Borders

BELMOPAN, Belize – Prime Minister John Briceño says his administration cannot afford to lock down the country as Belize gets ready to re-open its land borders on January 1 next year.

johnbPrime Minister John Briceño (file photo)But there are concerns as to what measures are being put in place to shield the population from another coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak.

Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler, said people heading across the border for day trips will not have to be tested on re-entry into the country, but those who go for longer stays will have to do so.

Prime Minister Briceño said he will be meeting with the Minister of Health on Wednesday “as well as immigration, to be able to have a better understanding as to what we want to do.

“Obviously we have to be very cautious and careful about the Omicron virus. But, the point is that it is going to come here. We can’t run away from it. We can’t afford to lock down the entire country like we did before.

“We can’t afford it. It is going to set us back even more. So, we just have to open up and be as cautious as we can. The most important thing is to get vaccinated. That is the only way we can help you. And those who have already gotten vaccinated get your booster shot,” Briceño said.

Belize is experiencing the end of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the authorities noting that active cases are down to 428 with a declining daily positivity rate.

However, almost 600 people have lost their fight with this deadly disease and the health authorities say the Delta variant is still present in the country.

Deputy Regional Health Manager, Dr Melissa Diaz-Musa, who is also a member of the COVID Medical Response Committee acknowledges there is concern among health professionals and that their recommendation remains that borders should not be opened, at least not at this time.

“Our recommendation remains to hold on the opening of the land borders. We feel that emphasis should be placed at this point on the schools, opening the schools safely for a few months and monitoring the situation. But if the land borders are opened as well, we have recommendations in place that will help us to ensure that we control the land borders as best as possible, similar to what we are doing with Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport (PGIA).”

She said the medical authorities are concerned about the Omicron variant as the country enters 2020.

“At this point, we still have Delta as the prominent variant in country. But if you look at Omicron and how it is much more transmissible than even Delta and we saw the burden that Delta had caused our health system, it is pretty early still because there’s a lot that’s not really well known about Omicron. “And for that reason it probably would be best for us to delay the opening of the border until we can see what’s happening in other countries with Omicron. A lot of the recommendations though, if we do open, a lot of the recommendations we are still in discussion at this point.”