Forty-five days ago Belize had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Fast forward to today and there have been eighteen cases total with fourteen considered as recovered patients; two as active patients and two who lost their fight to the virus. In comparison to the numbers in the region and other parts of the world, Belize has been spared of that level of devastation. Some have even speculated that the Government has not been revealing the accurate figures in those who are infected. Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, explained that even if the numbers were being doctored, unreported cases would have been evident in those being admitted in the hospitals.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We keep getting asked if we’re not doing testing. This weekend we two days where we did random sampling if you will. I think the parameter that should be able to address whether you have cases or not is whether you’re having people that are ill that are showing up in the hospital and the people who have influenza like illnesses who are showing up in hospital we have swabbed them. People who are having severe acute respiratory illnesses, pneumonias any of those cases who are being hospitalized we are taking a swab from them and they’re all negative and we are not seeing a significant amount of people showing up with respiratory problems that are of an infectious nature. In the Cayo area yes there’s smoke situation that’s an irritative cough, people are having the chills, the fever it’s more of an allergic reaction so to speak so even if you had the cases then and you are not doing enough testing we are not seeing it clinically, we are not seeing these patients showing up at emergency rooms. Our numbers in terms of flu cases or any influenza like cases have started to come down significantly in the last three to four weeks. So even if we have cases out there they are not showing up clinically. I think the numbers we have are close to the numbers that are reported I don’t know if you can do more random testing that we have done, of course we’re still going to continue to do that. Be on the lookout as we are even with Dengue cases you’re having fever and chills and muscle aches aside from Dengue test we’re still going to swab for COVID-19 we’re trying to capture those patients. I think it is a picture I can tell you what specific factor helped in containing it but I would have to say it’s the key public health measures that were established. We established elements of lock down that we had thought were only going to be done once we had ongoing community transmission. We don’t really want to talk about it but being a sparsely populated country or community can also be an element that you can factor in, of course I don’t know if you’d ever be able to give a value to that but I think it’s public health measures that were put in place that allowed us to seem to contain it now for sure.”
Dr. Manzanero went on to explain that despite this first round, a second and perhaps even a third wave should be expected for Belize.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “When we had the first wave one of the first things we said is it’s not going to be a matter of if but rather when and that’s exactly what happened so we are also making provisions in the Oversight Committee one of the discussions that we did highlight that we can expect to see two more waves perhaps this year and that’s what’s going to happen even at the CARPHA country discussions we are not so sure what kind of cyclical activity COVID-19 is going to have but if we have a routine flu season that kind of picks up towards the middle of October and really doesn’t rest until February then I think we can anticipate toward the end of this year November/December we can potentially have another one if we don’t have one before. We cannot lose sight of the fact that neighboring countries and the four countries that I can immediately think of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the US are just starting to show a significant increase in the number of cases they’re seeing daily so you understand that geographically this time around we cannot compare ourselves with Caribbean countries we are in the middle of countries that are having significant curves so we can’t lose sight of that. The borders might not be open but that’s where the potential another case can come and another wave can be from any neighboring land borders that we have.”