The newly elected government of Prime Minister John Briceño has announced a new strategy to control the further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Belize.
The government, which came to office earlier this month, said that the new strategy will include a curfew that begins on Saturday and will run from 9.00 pm to 5.00 am (local time) for the next three weeks.
But the new strategy does not include a role for the National Oversight Committee which was a public/private working group created by the previous government and subsequently disbanded nine days before the general elections.
Health Minister Michel Chebat says for the next six months, a task force comprised of doctors and technical experts will be advising the ministry that will be increasing its response for change in key areas, including epidemiological surveillance, hospital and lab capacity.
As part of its national public health measures for containment, the government has also decided that churches can conduct service but with a limit of 10 persons. Bars and gymnasiums will not be allowed to re-open and Chebat said that the Belize Police Department would be tasked with enforcing the COVID-19 rules.
“Starting on Saturday the 28th of November, a curfew will be implemented from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am and this will last for a period for 21 days. Restriction of gatherings shall remain at 10 persons. There shall be work from home orders and or staff shift rotation for public and private employees. We shall be providing food packages and a stipend to families who are quarantined.
“We are also going to be providing hotels for persons who cannot quarantine at home. Our team at the ministry will be assessing housing conditions to determine the adequacy of isolation and or quarantine. We are going to be asking the police to strictly enforce the quarantine measures,” Chebat said.
“We are going to be providing accommodation and other logistics for healthcare personnel. We are going to be undertaking a health education campaign, a robust one…Restaurants with outdoor facilities will be able to hosts up to twelve persons at a time. Those that do not will only be allowed to have takeout service.
“There will no gatherings in public places and stores and business will be required to have six-foot markers and will only be allowed to have twenty persons at a time in these business locations,” the Health Minister said.’
The Ministry of Health and Wellness recorded two more COVID-related deaths on Thursday.
The authorities said that a male from the Toledo District and a female from the Orange Walk District lost their battle with the deadly virus.
An additional 92 COVID-19 cases were also identified, bringing the total of confirmed cases to, 5515 with 2,363 being active cases.
The two northern districts continue to consistently record increasing numbers and the National Surveillance Officer, Lorena Perez, said that issues with the transmission rate are being experienced in Orange Walk and Corozal.
“We can highlight that the problem when it comes to transmissibility is really in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. This heat map is an attempt at showing you where the hotspots are, where the clusters are or the outbreak.
“The colour-coded map is just showing you the districts first that have the highest numbers of cases and then you look at the heat component of it which shows you the communities where most of the cases that are being reported. And it is using this information that the Minister highlighted the areas that are considered prorate. So that is up to midnight last night,” she added.
She said that 29,668 persons were tested and of these, 23,000 are negative.
“So our positivity rate is twenty point one percent. Of course, as the minister mentioned earlier we have over two thousand samples pending and out of this the projected positivity rate again as I said depends where these samples are really coming from.
“Up to this morning, the hospitalization stands at 54 with nine people at the Intensive Care Unit. Up to yesterday, we had recorded 129 deaths and 2, 700 cases had recovered.”