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New strategies in place including the return of a curfew

Covid-19 figures in Belize are showing that men are becoming more infected that women.  To date more than twenty nine thousand tests have been carried out by health officials.  During a press conference today the head of the Epidemiology Unit, Dr Natalia Beer gave an indepth overview of the numbers including the northern districts being the epicentres.

Dr Natalia Beer, Head of Epidemiology Unit : “At the epidemiology unit we try to come up with models as to predict where we’re headed in regards to the outbreak and our colleagues at the Epidemiology Unit did develop a model that highlighted that the number of new persons that are being infected at the moment by a confirmed case is seven persons. So you can imagine for every positive person that we have here there are seven additional persons that are being infected. When we look at the data we can see where the majority of the cases are in the northern part of the country. Actually if you do the math 80% of the cases are in the northern and central part of the country and as such the attention now is geared towards places that are showing the higher numbers but we also have to look at the places that are kinda controlling it right now because that is where we want to go. We want to ensure that the areas that are not having high transmissibility that we can keep it that way so that it does not overburden the health services. Up to midnight last night we had a total of 29,668 persons tested, of these 23,000 are negative and almost 20%  of these tests have proven to be positive so our positivity rate is 20.1%. Of course as the Minister mentioned earlier we have over two thousand samples pending and out of this the projected positivity rate again as I said depends on where these samples are really coming from. Currently up to this morning the hospitalization stands at fifty four persons hospitalized with nine persons at the intensive care unit. Up to yesterday at last night midnight we had recorded 129 deaths and 2,700 cases had recovered. If we look at the distribution of cases now by age and sex here we can see where the ages again we had mentioned this before men are being infected twice as much as females and then when you look at the distribution that age group, that productive sector we call it the twenty to about thirty nine are the most affected groups and these are the mobile population. So when you think about this group these are the ones that are actually out there, they’re socializing, they’re working, they’re commuting so these are the spreaders of the infection. When we look at the deaths now unfortunately as I said one of the indicators that you look when you’re looking at any infectious disease you’re looking at the case fatality ratio or rate and then you see how much impact it has on your community. So here we can see the age groups most affected again are the elderly but that does not exclude the young ones, we have had a child dying, we have had young adults dying so we have to be cognizant that not because we’re not in a particular age group that we will not be affected. So the lifestyle we have, the care we take of ourselves and of our community and our families has major impact on how well we can contain this virus. When we look at the districts of course we are having increased numbers of cases in both Corozal and Orange Walk. Stann Creek, the Banana Belt which is the areas that the Minister mentioned is another upcoming area and thus the reason why that area was identified and as an areas we need to move in before it really gets to the point that we are looking at in Orange Walk.”

The increasing numbers in Covid-19 cases are now seeing a strain on the public health facilities.  On a local talk show this morning Dr Fernando Cuellar spoke on the hospitals on the verge of failing  and becoming overwhelmed.  Speaking on the current number of hospitalization of Covid-19 patients was the Director of Health Services Dr Marvin Manzanero.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “Primarily I think the areas of concentration are Corozal and Orange Walk. Orange Walk had been in this situation maybe four or five weeks ago. I think the pressing concern would be Corozal where we have had to do what’s called the shifting of health services. You know in Corozal for example has an NHI and non NHI element within the hospital that has been taken away for the time being because of your resources and because of the infrastructure. So that in point of fact you would have just an in patient department, there’s no patient in the out patient that is classified as NHI nor non NHI. Then you have a ward for persons under investigation, a ward for COVID-19 patients and maternity wards. So you are basically working with the numbers as you go along. So Corozal for example this morning reported that they had twelve patients hospitalized, six patients under investigation which means you’re pending a confirmation of a result but be treated as a potential positive case and you have six patients hospitalized are confirmed positive which means that for that area they would have five beds available but through the weekend they went up to seventeen which is the max they have had. So you shift your health services based on where you’re going, you cancel elective surgeries, you may have to cut back on your outpatient department, patients that can be discharged and be followed up at home that can be done as well or that is being done wherever depending on the numbers that you’re seeing. So the straight answer would be Corozal and Orange Walk and also San Ignacio, Belmopan we’re monitoring closely because of the amount of patients turning up in that area. South doesn’t seem to be having that situation as yet.”

Love News asked Dr Manzanero what plans are in place to better equip and prepare the facilities for an increase in hospitalized cases.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “One of the items we are doing especially with the regional hospitals is cutting back on services like we did initially and as I said it depends on the numbers that you monitor every day. So for example Western Regional Hospital will have to be cutting back on elective surgeries in the time they are seeing out patient, in the case of chronic patients if you can give them medications for two or three weeks and find some way of supporting that because you have to shift your staff. You have to factor in the fact that beyond the physical infrastructure we also having health staff that is turning out positive particularly up north, I think Ms.Perez presented what healthcare workers would have an active or cases actually. So what you do is shifting of health services within your facility. If in point of fact you start to have a facility that is overwhelmed then you will have to consider whether you turn it into an actual COVID-19 unit and then channel your patients to the regional hospital or you can do it vice versa whether your regional hospital becomes your COVID-19 unit and you channel your patients to a community hospital. You work along with the numbers you have as has been happening for example with Karl Heusner that’s been gradually expanding their COVID-19 unit where they initially had six ventilators to now they’re having the ability to ventilate between eighteen to twenty patients so you expand as you move along with the resources, you fold back some services because you don’t have that huge amount of human resources that you can carry over with whatever you need to do so you fold back on electives and things that you can and you basically keep an A&E wing and a COVID-19 situation .”