There were no beach parties or Easter bash this past weekend. The traditional social gatherings will be recorded as absent, non-existent in the annals of Belize’s history. What will take its place are the recordings of nightly sirens warning us of the impending curfew; the restrictions of movements and the empty streets and silence of a country on lockdown because of the global pandemic, COVID-19. Despite the absence of events, however, the long Easter weekend did see multiple developments in the COVID-19 business and regulations in Belize. These ranged from a countrywide shutdown to an upset on the Oversight Committee by the Leader of the Opposition, to a major scare for healthcare workers and the death of COVID-19 patient number ten. The weekend events unfolded with the death of Patient Ten on Good Friday, April 10. The Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero made a video statement on social media on the heels of the Patient Ten’s passing in which he outlined the circumstances.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “This patient died earlier today as you may have seen already on social media and on a press release that we did earlier and that’s after we received confirmation of this tenth positive case at around 9:00 p.m last night. This was the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 for Belize, the tenth case was a male he was in his sixties who had initially been admitted two weeks ago at a private facility; today is two weeks ago that he had been initially admitted and I will walk you briefly through the timeline without getting into details because as you know we were waiting for more information in this regard. So the patient was initially admitted on the 27th of March at Belize Healthcare Partners Limited. He had an initial diagnosis of community acquired pneumonia and he was there until March 30 which is when we understand he self discharged himself from the institution, returned on March 31st with respiratory distress. He was intubated on March 31st at Healthcare Partners Limited and he remained intubated there for one week before he was transferred to Karl Heusner. This patient did spend twenty four hours from the 30th to the 31st he had self discharge and he did require oxygen, this is according to the report the treating doctor initially gave us. So what has happened is that that patient was intubated on the 31st as I had mentioned and he improved significantly in terms of his respiration process and when they tried to take off the sedation on April 2nd they realized that he had in point of fact a neurological condition, he had a stroke while he had been in the induced coma which can be complication of being in an induced coma and in a bed. He got a CAT scan that confirmed that he did have a stroke and so that would have made his weening off a ventilator a little bit much more difficult than any patient who doesn’t have a complication. As we understand it from the treating doctor he was a diabetic, he as a hypertensive patient and when he was referred to Karl Heusner on the 7th he had already been seven days connected to a ventilator. So he arrived to Karl Heusner on the 7th which is Tuesday and was sent to ICU care from that same day when he arrived. The patient continued progressive deterioration, he was swabbed at Karl Heusner on Thursday April 9th. We had a preliminary screening test at around 3:00 p.m and so Karl Heusner staff was alerted at that time of what the potential result would have been until we got the confirmatory test at about 9:00 p.m last night. The ICU staff at Karl Heusner did consider this patient a potential suspect as we do with any patient who has had a previous negative sample so that patient was – I mean the staff there did use the proper PPEs in that regard. Nonetheless that staff has been screened and has been, I mean when you go through your mapping exercise you determine what levels of risk the people, the different healthcare workers would have had. That same mapping exercise is going to be conducted at Healthcare Partners Limited .”
Later on Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Dean Barrow addressed the country via a video recording from the confines of his home. This address included the announcement of even stricter regulations on the movements of citizens.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The time has now come to take the ultimate step for which we have been preparing. I, therefore, after consultation with the National Oversight Committee, announce that starting from tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. the entire country of Belize will be placed under quarantine. This will last for 14 days in the first instance, but may, of course, be extended. During that period, a thoroughgoing mapping and testing exercise will be undertaken, starting with the family of, and all the known health care providers that attended to, patient #10. What we put in place at the time of the Cayo quarantine will now apply countrywide. Accordingly, throughout the nation, we will be strictly confined to the following activities: procuring food and medicine, fuel, and finance. Thus, grocery shops and pharmacies will be open during reduced hours; fuel stations will also operate during reduced hours; and banks, credit unions, and other lending institutions only from 8:00 a.m. to noon.
Naturally, public bus transportation will cease across the land. Of course, to preserve the food supply chains, farms and farmers will continue to produce. Additionally, the movement of essential workers must be provided for and Government will make special arrangements for this.”
With the announcement of a lockdown of the entire country due to Friday’s anticipation of an increase of cases, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, spoke on what the measure will mean for all districts.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General and Minister of National Security of Belize: “Under the new laws Sundays will be a special day under the regulations. Sunday is a complete shutdown for 90% of the entire country. Only food mills, sugar, citrus and other approved food production factories, oil production and drilling for oil exploration, port operations and services connected with the loading and unloading of ships and air crafts, and delivery to and from ports, public utilities and independent energy producers which provide energy to public utilities- only those that I’ve just listed will be allowed to operate tomorrow Sunday and every Sunday for the next fourteen days. If you do not fall within the list that I just read; food mills, sugar, citrus and other approved products, oil exploration, port operations, public utilities, if you’re not one of those you’re not allowed to operate tomorrow Sunday. No grocery stores, no pharmacies, nothing like that are allowed to be opened tomorrow. Also, only if you have a medical emergency are you allowed to leave your homes tomorrow. So if you don’t work at one of those places that I just mentioned or you don’t have a medical emergency you are not allowed to be in the streets tomorrow. Only the workers who work for these places that I just mentioned, only those workers going to those places and coming back from those places are allowed to be on the streets tomorrow and even they are only allowed to be on those streets during the non curfew hours which is 5:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. After 8:00 p.m tomorrow even those people who work for those essential services that I just mentioned even those people have to be in their homes.”
The death of Patient Ten and the exposure given to health care workers at the Belize Healthcare Partners and the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital led to the KHMHA Workers Union anger regarding protocols. Two meetings were held over the weekend with the KHMH administration and another with the Prime Minister. In the meeting with the Prime Minister, it was agreed that the KHMHA Union will have a representative on the COVID-19 Planning Committee; that an investigation will be launched into this weekend’s events surrounding Patient Ten including but not limited to the protocols and that transportation will be provided to all workers at the KHMH to and from work.