A new variant of Covid-19 is now being reported in neighboring Mexico. It is a cause for concern, and according to Dr Melissa Diaz-Musa Belize is already having positive swabs tested abroad to see if any new variants are in-country.
Dr.Melissa Musa, Acting Director of Health Services: “This COVID virus has had numerous mutations over the last twelve months so this new variant that was discovered in the UK is not the only variant of this virus and even after that we have heard of other variants that have been detected in other countries across the world. The significance of the virus, the new strain that was detected in the UK, is that it has been shown to be 70% more infectious and that was the concern that everyone had with regard to this variant. So we have collaborated with Baylor College in Houston as well as with the lab in Trinidad, the CARPHA lab, and they have agreed to help us to do gene sequencing for genotyping on the swabs that we already have, on the positive swabs that we have in country, in order for us to determine what are the variants that we have at this point in Belize and what are the different strains. So we are currently waiting on a report from Baylor because they have received some and CARPHA has agreed to do a small percentage as well for us so that would be over the next two to three weeks we hope to get some information on what are the strains that are active in country at this time.”
Another cause of concern has to do with the plans to reopen the Corozal Free Zone on February 1. Speaking on the precautions being taken is the Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, who also sits on the Reopening Committee of the Free Zone.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs & New Growth Industries: “The restrictions that we’re going to be implementing in the Free Zone have to be extremely stringent, the checks, the monitoring, the oversight has to be very regular, the Ministry of Health will play an active role in overseeing the implementation and constantly monitoring the business taking place within the Free Zone to ensure that there is full compliance by all businesses, by all patrons to these establishments and so that’s very critical moving forward because we’re looking to as much as one thousand employees going back to work in the Free Zone; initially it was around three thousand employees but we’re looking to take about one third of those employees back and definitely the measures that are going to be in place at the Free Zone are going to be very strict and we’re going to have to constantly monitor it because like you said there is evidence of the UK strain being in Mexico and so we have to be very guarded when we consider reopening the borders even at this very small degree just the Free Zone.”