More than thirteen thousand cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Belize since the start of the pandemic. The country presses on its journey of hills and valleys and continues its trek of successes and failures. News Editor Dale McDougall travels through time and reports now on Belize’s Covid-19 tally.
Dale McDougal, Love News: The world has been in disarray since December 2019 When one Chinese doctor sounded the alarm that a pandemic was upon us, Belize managed to stay free from the virus for another 81 days when we got our first wake up call, an American who was here had tested positive on his return to his country. But it would not be for another two days that reality really kicked in COVID-19 was here. Then Prime Minister Right Honorable Dean Barrow, made the announcement.
Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister of Belize: “I have the very unpleasant duty of announcing this morning that we have our first confirmed case of a Belizean citizen having tested positive for COVID 19.”
Dale McDougal, Love News: With that announcement a state of emergency kicked in for San Pedro in the first instance and clubs, bars, lounges and casinos and schools were shut down. Basic foodstuff, clean water, access to hospitals and pharmacies were the only things Belizeans were able to do. There were no parties, no clubbing and certainly no visits to family and friends. Movement had been restricted, and there was a nightly curfew implemented, one which still continues 16 months on. And after those first 18 cases and two deaths between March 23 and April 13 Belize went a remarkable fifty three days without a single case. Hope was then on the horizon and many felt it would have been a good time to reopen but alas on June five a 19th case was tallied. The dog days of summer 2020 were just that, horribly humid at a hotbed of cases. There were steady increases well into July, August and September despite the loosening of restrictions on movement, but the tunnel remained a dark place because coming towards the general elections that November and the days thereafter cases ballooned from the double digits earlier in the year, two the quadruple digits by the end of 2020. By November 29 there were more than 2400 active cases in the land. A mere five days later active cases moved to over 3500. The weeks immediately preceding Christmas time saw the largest numbers of cases the country had ever seen 3700 Plus on December 6, almost 100 More a date later, peaking at 4832 on December 16th nine days before Christmas. But testing capabilities increased dramatically since the last quarter of 2020 and well into this year from a peak of 4800 cases fell to about 1500 in the week before the holidays. Vaccines have rolled out since then with more than 115,000 people receiving the job, thus far, and 43,000 plus being fully vaccinated. This includes 60% of all teachers across the country, frontline workers, including those who work in the judiciary and security guards are being told to get theirs by August one thanks to SI 74. Belize has confirmed the Epsilon variant and the samples were sent to Texas to find out if the more virulent Delta variant is here.
Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The Ministry of Health and Wellness is concerned by the rapid increase in positive cases we have been recording since the 21st of June. Based on analysis done by the Central Medical Lab commencing on Friday last week, we’re able to say that a variant of the COVID virus has now been detected in Belize. Two sets of samples were ran, 20 out of a set of 35 detected a variant of concern and 22 out of 47 in the second sample ran detected a variant of concern. At this time, we do not know exactly which variant it is. Our samples have been sent to Baylor College for gene sequencing to assist us in identifying the variant. We hope to have that information shortly.”
Dale McDougal, Love News: While cases are no longer being tallied in four digits there has been a steady increase with close to 350 cases in the land tonight. Again, in the meantime, do your part by washing your hands, watching your distance, and wearing your masks and public.