The latest statement from the Ministry of Health has indicated that Ambergris Caye has been the hardest hit in Belize with the highest number of Covid-19 cases. Tonight we can tell you that there are currently fourteen police officers attached to Ambergris Caye who are now off duty and in quarantine. Commanding Officer for the island, Superintendent Christopher Noble spoke to the media on the situation involving his officers and how this is affecting the security services on the island.
Chris Noble, Superintendent of Police: “We have five infected, three are on the island two are off the island. They were symptomatic they are now asymptomatic and I have six more – nine more that presented flu symptoms; three presented flu symptoms today we had six that presented over the weekend and we have isolated all officers. You work on an 80% on 20% off so it will affect us down the road if we have, say we have another fifteen or twenty officers down however I don’t see that happening because we’ve put in place since Thursday and Friday when we were working at it we put in place more rigidity to access to the station and impressing on all officers to the wearing of masks etc. We’ve gotten temperature testers so we do that at the door at entry. It’s basically self isolation there is no rapid cure as I understand it for COVID-19 so what the officers have been doing is staying home. What we’ve implemented for those officers is some sort of support, assigning officers to make checks on them at least three times a day, where necessary or in the case of an officer that’s isolated we’ve been providing the meals and the basic necessities to go along with that. You know if they have a need I have people assigned to take care of their needs. Most officers if not all off them that are off right now live in singular apartments to say they live by themselves so there’s nothing where it would continue and we have another community spread per se. We’re trying to work with them to keep them calm and let this virus go through their system and then we can have them cleared at the next testing time.”
Superintendent Noble explained that he has been in frequent communication with the officers under quarantine. He explained that the situation is a sensitive matter and ideally, he would want his officers to receive mental health assistance as it does pose a stressful situation for them.
Chris Noble, Superintendent of Police: “Speaking to one of the officers yesterday he’s saying you know from the day I spoke to you when I wasn’t speaking well I am up and ready to go the only thing I’m to be kept inside and it plays with your psyche which is why we put together a check to some extent on those officers where somebody is assigned to make sure that they have a meal at every meal time and they all have access directly to me so it should not be an issue to get to me or to speak to me and I’ll be the first to agree with you that I’m not trained in counseling but I offer what I can because this is something that is new to us, it’s new to the country, it’s new to the world. We can’t hurriedly say what the cure is or hurriedly tell somebody what he will go through. So for me right now they have contact with me and every so often I would contact one of them and ask about what they’re going through. It’s not something a lot of them tend to want to discuss because it’s personal to them and I give that to them however if there’s something they want to ask about I make myself available for them. I mean let me say that first and foremost this island has been the way it has been because of those very same officers including Manuel Calis because of the way they work. They do have times when people fall out of line we have to bring them back and push them in the right direction. I would love for somebody to come forward that is on the island and not speak to me personally- in fact I would speak to the person likewise because these officers are my responsibility so when it comes to mental health mine may be strained at times I don’t know of anybody but again my cry would be if your a professional in that capacity and want to assist us please my number remains the same. We have the EAP the Employee Assistance Program but remember we were locked off so I can’t bring in or import somebody to speak to my officers.”
In a release from the Ministry of Health, there are currently three clusters on Ambergris Caye. The first cluster is connected to Patient 57 and activities at the Allure Nightclub held between July 16 and 19. Forty two percent of the cases on the island have been linked to the Allure Nightclub. The identified second cluster is connected to the Living Word Church and a service held in mid-July and the third cluster is from a construction site. Several frontline workers have also fallen victims of the Covid-19 virus. Love News asked Dr Manzanero whether any link has been made between the infected frontline workers and their jobs.
Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Based on the number of police officers that you have in San Pedro we decided to test others to kind of do a random sampling of not only the symptomatic but the asymptomatic ones. So I know that five were reactive and five samples were sent to Central Medical lab for processing but I don’t know that they’re positive. I do know that four are positive and those four officers are all from Corozal. The last officer we identified works in San Pedro but lives in Corozal that’s in terms of police officers. In terms of healthcare workers I know it’s three doctors, two nurses and one pharmacist. Two doctors and one nurse are from private sector so I can’t comment on their level of exposure within the health setting but I do know that two of them are in San Pedro and the other doctor that is positive had been in San Pedro the weekend where we think could have been an explosion of cases in the island. The other officers are one doctor and one nurse from Northern Regional Hospital and one pharmacist from San Pedro but the pharmacist from San Pedro was on vacation so the timeline from when he became symptomatic and was swabbed would not point to the fact that he got infected in the line of duty. Of course with COVID everything can be possible but it doesn’t seem that that is the case for right now. Similarly with the two people from Northern Regional they were not the immediate caretakers of the positive patient we have had so they would not immediately seem to be linked to a positive case within the healthcare setting so we can’t say that they got infected while at work. Not withstanding I think that underscores the relevance of people taking precautions wherever you go because as I was explaining to some of the team members earlier and with Karl Heusner management earlier in the day we can take all the precautions within a hospital setting but the moment you go out in public and you let your guard down then you’re going to have an issue because then you’re gonna have people becoming infected in public and not in the work place and that still can bring an entire system down. I made a call to Commissioner on Saturday morning to flag that issue of police officers and tell them precaution measures they need to take not only in the line of duty but in wherever they’re going as private citizens.”
As Ambergris Caye remains under lockdown, there are new identified cases in Orange Walk and Belize City. Definitive findings from these new cases are yet to confirmed but according to health officials, the Central Medical Laboratory is currently extracting and processing up to three hundred samples from across the country. For now, Ambergris Caye and the northern villages of Guinea Grass, Santa Martha and Shipyard remain under strict lockdown. Again, with the results of today’s samples yet to be released, Belize has registered one hundred and fifty four Covid-19 cases of which one hundred and twenty remain active.