Almost twelve weeks after it was first detected in Wuhan, China, the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus has been detected in Belize. It is the first confirmed case and it has been detected on Ambergris Caye. The official announcement came this morning just after ten o’clock by Prime Minister Dean Barrow. The patient is a 38-year-old Belizean businesswoman of the San Pedrito area of the island. She reportedly returned to Belize on Thursday, March 19 from Los Angeles, California where almost two thousand cases have been detected.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, 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. The person is a Belizean citizen but goes back and forth between our country and the US, came into Belize from Los Angeles on Thursday as I understand it, had already started feeling unwell and so went straight into self isolation. I say this not to preempt the medical personnel who will talk to you as soon as I’m done but to make the point early on that while we don’t know for sure and while the full tracing and mapping exercise will be done it does seem as though there was very minimal contact with anyone except for the physician that attended the person at the private clinic she visited and that physician was properly protected. Point being that we are hopeful that the incidence of transmission would pretty much be nonexistent. Of course we can’t be absolutely sure and that is why the mapping and tracing exercise is so very important.”.
In a report from the Mayor of San Pedro, Daniel Guerrero, the patient was on the island running errands and then she began feeling ill. He says the mapping of her footprints is still being conducted by health officials.
Daniel Guerrero, Mayor of San Pedro Town: “She did her errands. She went to the bank, she was around but then she started feeling bad, she started feeling the symptoms and that’s why she went there to the clinic but I didn’t know the name of the person, right now we know but the thing is that a lot of the pictures out on Facebook I know who she is know but I don’t know anything about the party that was mentioned that she was involved and all the going out.”
Reporter: Is there any truth behind that ?
Daniel Guerrero, Mayor of San Pedro Town: “That I don’t know, we have to start doing our investigation on that side, I’m not sure if our group that is working knows about it but I heard that and they were showing it to me on Facebook that she had a party but I don’t know how true that is so I don’t want to talk too much about that one there. But even when it comes to that I think that’s a case already confirmed but to me the message I want to send out there that it is the civic right of any citizen in this country that knows that he or she are coming from any other country that has been infected with that or if it’s in the country or if it’s in the island that have met this person, has contacted this person it is their civic right to come out and say ‘I have dealt with that person, I was with her and this.’ or anyone that feels the symptoms is there should automatically call for a medical doctor.”
While we hear from Mayor Guerrero that the patient was around the island running errands, the Prime Minister spoke to the contrary saying that she had gone into immediate isolation. According to a release from the government, based on the patient’s travel history and her symptoms, health officials were alerted over the weekend and the screening process began. Prior to this, however, she had sought medical attention at a private clinic. According to the Prime Minister, the patient is already in isolation. He advised the residents of San Pedro to remain calm and not to over-react.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The case of San Pedro and the fact that the person who has tested positive is from the town is from the island of Ambergris Caye and is already in self isolation from the day after she arrived in country means that we don’t believe that there ought to be any cause for unnecessary alarm among the residents of San Pedro and so I want to be careful in trying to do the following balancing act. Because we can’t be entirely sure we’re asking San Pedranos to as it were shelter in place. We know that there are people, today is the last day for the international flights and we know that there are people who are coming in from the island to try to actually get out of the country so we’re not enforcing as from today any kind of quarantine with respect to the island but we’re asking San Pedranos not to come to the main land except it is absolutely essential and we’re asking mainlanders not to go out to San Pedro except it is absolutely essential. We will give some thought to whether in fact we need to impose a quarantine if we do, if we do after further consultation with medical personnel, it would only be for something like forty eight hours; that is the kind of time frame that they need to do as comprehensive a mapping exercise as possible.”