The amendments to Statutory Instrument 134 saw authorization given to churches and restaurants to reopen with some conditions. These amendments were announced on Tuesday, September 22. According to the Attorney General, the conditions are across the board despite the size of the buildings.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “Currently as you know churches are not allowed to operate nor restaurants whether indoors or outdoor. So we decided, the Committee along with Cabinet decided that the time has come for us to do a soft opening of those two places. The churches no more than ten people in the congregation of course you’ll have the pastor and his or her assistants. Restaurants it’s no more than ten people in the whole restaurant no matter what the size. Now if you have a huge restaurant you can still only have ten people. If you have a small restaurant that cannot hold ten people being six feet apart or not at the same table then clearly you can’t have ten but if you have the space you’re allowed up to ten with the proper social distancing and mask when you’re not eating. They can operate now on a take out basis or a drive through or delivery and so basically you have those people in the restaurant working together already so when we say ten persons we mean ten customers. Must have a restaurant license to operate and it must be by reservation so those are the things we think we can do at this point. Like I always used to say, how we go or how much we open up depends on our behavior now. So lately we have been behaving a little badly and so we had to become very strict. We don’t want to be strict, we don’t like to be strict but protecting the Belizean people against this pandemic is the ultimate goal of the government so we will go as strict as we need to get but we feel like we have reached the point where we can start to open up again and ask people to be responsible and cooperate with us.”
The regulations of churches and restaurants only allowing ten customers brought the question of how the public transportation system is being handled with social distancing in mind. According to the Attorney General there is a method to the madness.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “There’s a huge difference. We don’t expect people to keep their mask on when they’re eating. I have yet to see them create a mask that will allow you to have it on, protect yourself, protect others and then drink and eat at the same time. In the restaurant you have to actually take off the mask to eat and drink so you’re exposing yourself right in that moment there. So then we believe that you need less persons to have it functioning rather than on a bus where everybody on that bus must sanitize before they go on the bus, must wear their mask and there must only be seating capacity. We think that with the requirement that you must keep on the mask on the public transportation then that is a safer place for you to have more people and then when it comes to public transportation like we said before we have to learn to manage the risk and there are certain cases where it’s difficult for you to limit it to ten people. One part of the provision said that if you live in the same household or the same yard you’re allowed to have more than ten people because if that is where the people live that is where they live you can’t tell them they can’t be there. So there are always exceptions because without those exceptions it would be hard for us to function on a whole but that’s a major difference we see that you could require people to wear their mask in one instance and have more than ten people on the bus as opposed to a restaurant where you actually have to remove the mask to conduct what you’ve gone to the restaurant to do.”