San Pedro Belize Express (SPBE), a Belizean operated water taxi service, has called off its international run to and from Chetumal, Mexico for the next 15 days. The move comes following a situation over the weekend where the company’s International Star vessel was carrying fifty tourists to Ambergris Caye and was refused entry onto the island. These tourists who hailed from various countries, including Italy and the US, were unable to complete their journey as health officials in Belize ordered that the tourists be taken back to Chetumal as a precautionary measure. Three of the persons who were on the vessel were denied entry onto an ADO bus in Chetumal, which is when they decided to use the boat instead.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Three Europeans had tried to come in to Belize from Chetumal via ADO and they obviously showed some symptoms because the ADO personnel refused to let them on the bus that’s what I was told and then they ended up coming on the San Pedro/Chetumal Ferry but the manifest was sent and whatever checks were done and so the fact that these three persons that had already been refused permission to board the ADO buses were on the ferry. And so I gave immediate instructions that they were not to be allowed to disembark, initially I thought these were three foreigners and that perhaps the rest of the passengers were Belizean and then I was told not every single one is a foreigner and I said nobody is to come off that vessel. They were kept initially in the Lagoon by the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard was sent to intercept them. The Coast Guard was going to take them back but I was told that the port in Chetumal had closed and there was the humanitarian concern, children were on board and it was late in the evening and I was told that the waters in the Bay would be to say the least choppy and so I thought the better course would be to keep them at the Lagoon guarded by the Coast Guard, get food up to them, get fuel and send them back in the morning especially since there was a chance that if they were escorted back the same night they would not be allowed to dock at the port in Chetumal. By the time I relayed that message I was told well the Coast Guard was twenty minutes into the return journey and I said well no turn right back around I’m not gonna have children endangered on our watch but then within two minutes CEO Enriquez called me to say ‘Look the people at the port in Chetumal have said it is fine we will open bring them, we will take them off and we will do the screening and we will take care of everything.’ So that’s what happened, the Coast Guard continued with the return journey and as far as I know they were safely taken off the boat in Chetumal. In terms of ADO that’s all I know that, I don’t know if it’s the same incident but I was told that I that was the genesis of the whole problem, ADO refused to put them on.”
The boat lingered in the waters for over an hour and returned to Chetumal, escorted by the Belize Coast Guard. The boat company has since issued a release assuring the public that the Belizean crew that was working on the vessel has been screened and declared healthy. They have, however, been placed on the list of self-quarantined persons in Belize.