It is another day to be thankful as Belize remains the last man standing in the western hemisphere as we remain COVID-19 free. Up to yesterday, El Salvador and Nicaragua were COVID-19 free but late last night both country leaders issued a public advisory on the confirmed cases. In Belize, the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero, led a webcast this morning with an update on where Belize is on suspected cases, the volume of testing and other areas. According to Dr. Manzanero, they are scaling up the number of tests being done around the country.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We are aware now of the confirmed case in Nicaragua which is an imported case of a Nicaraguan who was in Panama and came back and then fell ill – again not detected at an entry point detected by the health system. El Salvador confirmed it’s case last night also a Salvadoran and you know they’re on lock down for the last week or so and this is somebody who was in Italy and came back in through- he didn’t go through the normal channels so again that explains why sometimes when you completely lock down everything completely it’s still going to be difficult for you to track your case because people will find ways and means of still getting in and ways and means of hiding from the system so that means that Belize is I believe the only country in mainland America right now that doesn’t have a confirmed case. Given what has transpired in the last thirty six hours we have scaled up our testing procedures I mean we are over the last twenty four hours we tested thirteen more people including highly suspect cases which means that anybody who has any contact with anybody who has a travel history and is coming down with symptoms we are testing you. This morning hospitals across the country who have severe acute respiratory illnesses will be asked to swab their patients and send in their samples because we’re still looking for any potential cases that we may not be able to detect.”
If you are experiencing symptoms or if you have been exposed, the primary advice is to go into self-isolation. When it comes to self-isolation Dr. Manzanero explained that this is an issue for the authorities as the guidelines of self-isolation are not being adhered to in some cases. He also noted that the government is currently in the process of procuring more testing kits and x-ray machines.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I know that we are trying to get some funding now through IDB for procurement of testing kits and portable x-ray machines and we have multiple other agencies just start to line up in saying ‘Okay, we are going to be all hands on deck and let’s see how we can move forward in this regard.’ When we’re asking you to go into self isolation and giving you mechanisms or even if you are able to slip through the cracks if you will really approach it as if this is a serious matter and people should not be out on the street, people should not be making a mockery of our call for you to be in self isolation which seems to be something that’s trendy but this is not a laughing matter, we really need to be serious about the work we are doing in that regard.”
As Belize maintains a window of opportunity to improve on its response plan to COVID-19, Parliamentarians have approved a Treasury Bill today which will allow the Government to borrow twenty-five million dollars from the Central Bank of Belize. This loan is one of several that are being sought by the Government to ensure that the response is as adequate as can be once the virus lands in Belize. Prime Minister as the Minister of Finance rose in the House today to introduce the Bill.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: Madam Speaker I rise to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Treasury Bills Act Chapter 83 of the Substantive Laws of Belize Revised Edition 2011 to increase the maturity of treasury notes from ten years to twenty years and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This bill has the recommendation of the Cabinet. In accordance with standing order 49,1 I move that the bill be taken through all it’s stages forthwith. This will help us in terms of the borrowing that we’re going to be immediately doing via the Central Bank and any further borrowing that we may need to do.”
As the Chair of the COVID’s National Oversight Committee, the Prime Minister also noted in the House that there will be stricter precautionary measures put in place by the end of the week.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Madam Speaker as of now there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our country. We appear to be the last one standing certainly in Central America and some people say the entire hemisphere. We want to keep it that way and accordingly the Leader of the Opposition and I have convened a meeting of the Oversight Committee for tomorrow. We would have done it for today except we needed to get through the budget especially since it is now going to contain the additional allocation for the $25 million dollars that we’re borrowing in order to charter the relief fund. I merely wanted to say Madam Speaker that Belizeans ought to expect without preempting the decisions that the oversight committee will make tomorrow, Belizeans certainly ought to expect a ramping up of the measures that we have already signaled as we make a desperate effort to keep Belize free from COVID-19.”
It is important to note that while the Prime Minister has committed to the tourism sector workers who will feel the brunt of the economic downturn, the monies being sourced will have to last for a period of time. The monies are yet to be attained as the Government has only merely identified the sources. Currently, Dr. Carla Barnett and Christopher Coye are working together to develop a system of disbursement and as soon as that has been finalized it will be explained in detail. Love News will keep following and update you accordingly.