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Health Minister Says Union Protests are Possible Super-Spreaders

COVID-19 figures are on the rise and those who have been following the unions’ many protests and demonstrations are now voicing their concerns. A leading health professional says that the recent protests by BNTU and PSU members are possible super-spreader events as the ten-person limit is ignored and the required social distancing is completely disregarded. Some view these mass gatherings as irresponsible on the parts on the unions. Hipolito Novelo spoke to Health and Wellness Minister Michel Chebat about it.

The number of COVID-19 cases is steadily rising. A study of the figures show that COVID-19 cases began to increase after the Easter Holiday. Most of the increases were registered in the Orange Walk district. 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Leading out of the Easter Weekend we saw some numbers coming out of the Guinea Grass area of Orange Walk and we saw increasing numbers in Belize City and currently we’re looking at some increase in numbers in the Stann Creek district and so we have our team out there doing the contact tracing. We continue to do massive testing and that will be ongoing.”

There is another problem that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has to deal with. 

Over the past days, BNTU and PSU members have been gathering in large groups across the country. This is a form of their industrial action against the government. They are demanding good governance, an end to corruption and reject government’s decision to cut their salaries by ten percent. But the union’s their many acts of industrial actions including their demonstration in front of the National Assembly in Belmopan is in contravention of the COVID-19 regulations. 

Gatherings are limited to ten persons, but that COVID-19 rule has been thrown out the window by the unions. 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We’re very much concerned. I mean it’s no secret that this virus is spread through human contact and so whenever we see large gatherings, whenever we see gatherings beyond the number that is allowed which is ten persons it does cause us to be concerned.”

And while these protestors wear their masks and probably have hand sanitizers with them there is no social distancing. Members of the public who have been following the COVID-19 rules are concern. Public Health Specialist Doctor Marcelo Coyi who is a member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group took to social media to express his concerns. Dr Coyi wrote “I am concerned about that the demonstration taking place now can be super spreader events for COVID-19. The country has already begun seeing an increased positivity rate.”  Health and Wellness Minister Michel Chebat says that the Belize Police Department should enforce the COVID-19 regulations as per the S.I. 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: ” I believe that really is a matter for the police to address. We raised it as a concern but as you will know enforcement is not for the Ministry of Health and Wellness it is really for the police but we have raised the concern and we are sure that the police will be handling it in the correct manner.” 

But the Belize Police Department has taken a hands off approach to the unions’ mass gatherings. The COVID-19 task force met on Tuesday to discuss several matters including plan to deal with a surge of COVID-19 cases as a result of these super spreader events. 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Well like I said before any gathering of persons more than ten and especially in the numbers we have seen causes us to be concerned. The team is prepared and we are going to be ready to be able to face whatever spike.”