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Ministry of Health Announces New Measures to Curb the Spread of COVID-19

On October 1, a new regulation will come into effect. This new COVID-19 measure requires that anyone wanting to access a public building such as a grocery store or restaurant present his or her vaccination card which indicates that the person has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Another option will be to present a negative PCR or Rapid test. The Ministry of Health and Wellness says this new measure is to stop the spread of the deadly virus but will the business community suffer? Hipolito Novelo reports.

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Government has decided to implement a new measure commencing on the first of October.”

Health and Wellness Minister Michel Chebat today announced a drastic measure to ‘encourage’ persons to get at least one dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines available in Belize. According to Minister Chebat, as of October 1, persons wanting to enter any public building will have to present their vaccination card or a negative a PCR/ or rapid test. And as for what constitute a public building, Chebat says, this includes grocery stores, public transportation, restaurants and so forth. 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The rapid test is a 48 hour test and the PCR test will be a 96 hour test and so for clarity a public building would include both a privately owned and a publicly owned building and it means that it would refer to any building that the public has lawful entry into. So not only does it cover government buildings it would also cover restaurants and grocery stores. It would also cover public transportation so that buses and boats ferrying people back and to from the islands will also be included.”

According to Minister Chebat, because we are in a pandemic, the government has the authority to determine how, and when people can access certain businesses. 

Reporter: Does the government have the legal authority to dictate to a private business owner who he can reject from entering his store ? 

Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Well we are in a pandemic and so that the government does have the authority to determine how and where and when people can access certain businesses and we can set the law in relation to this and I will say to you that Belize is not the only CARICOM country that is doing this. If you look at Jamaica, Jamaica has implemented it and most recently Guyana has implemented it and this is just an expansion of what we’ve been doing. Recently we passed an SI requiring that patrons of casinos must prove their vaccination status before they enter and as well as BPOs we have by law required that only fifty percent of their staff be at work at any time and that fifty percent must be vaccinated. So this is not new and so we’re trying to avert a situation where we will have to go through a lockdown and then there’s going to be a loss for everybody in the country. You see what I’m saying ?”

Over a hundred and seventy person have received their first dose of the vaccine. More than seventy-nine thousand are fully vaccinated. Chebat says that the ministry does not anticipate that there would be any loss to any business. Commenting on this new measure was Senator for Private Sector Kevin Herrera. 

Kevin Herrera, Senator for Private: “I think we need to do all we can to keep the population safe, to keep businesses open and to try to get the kids back into classes. I think we’re paying a very high price in that regard and so I think these initiatives coming from the government I think is what you’d expect progressively. Is that even with all the required social distancing, even with the mask wearing we’re seeing that it’s difficult to contain the virus you know and so I think additional measures have to be put in place and this is one of them. I think it’s what has to be done I don’t know how else you could go about it. I think that people have to say it’s not so much about me it’s really about a larger picture.”

Children who are below twelve years old will be exempted from this new regulation. Enforcement will be done by a COVID Enforcement Unit. Members of this unit will be deployed across the country to enforce the covid-19 regulations. Justices of the Peace will also be asked to assist. Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.