BELMOPAN, Belize – The Belize government has postponed the January 1 re-opening of land borders and sea ports.
A government statement said that based on the formal recommendations of the COVID-19 Advisory Committee, it has agreed that the opening of the land borders and sea ports has been postponed to February 2022.
“The delay in opening will allow for the health system to better prepare for the emergence of the Omicron variant as well as to prepare for the education system’s return to hybrid learning on 10th January 2022.,” the statement said.
It said that the Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to monitor the situation very closely to ensure the integrity of Belize’s health system and the welfare of Belizeans.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister John Briceño said his administration could not afford to lock down the country as it did before amid concerns as to what measures were being put in place to shield the population from another coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak.
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.
Prime Minister Briceño has acknowledged that the Omicron variant poses a new threat to the country and when asked by reporters on Wednesday whether the country would be moving towards self-testing for COVID-19, replied “we have had that discussion in the last cabinet meeting and what we have asked is that the Ministry of Health to take a look of how we could start to do self-testing.
“The concern that the Ministry of Health has, that the technical people have, is that it would be difficult for them to be able to keep track of the number of people that are getting sick, and where they are getting sick and who it is that they are getting sick.”
Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler, had 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.
Belize is experiencing the end of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the authorities noting that active cases were declining.
But Deputy Regional Health Manager, Dr Melissa Diaz-Musa, who is also a member of the COVID Medical Response Committee said health professionals had recommended 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,” she added.