In recent weeks the buzz words around the country and even the globe is social distancing. It is an act where humans have to become conscious of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and a constant presence in public spaces. The Government of Belize has been advocating for social distancing as a preventative measure in the COVID-19 pandemic. Today it was announced that the acceptable number of persons in one gathering has been reduced from twenty-five to ten as explained by the Attorney General.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “No persons shall gather in numbers of more than ten anywhere in Belize in any public place, public space. For example no more than ten people should be in the same room together at this point. We’re saying that when you’re in the public even though you are allowed to have ten persons in the room you need to have a safe distance from each person even when you’re in public, three feet. We’re saying now that if you’re out in the public and you’re in a space where there’s less than ten people then keep a distance of three feet from the nearest person to you; so that is what we’re pushing for and asking for within the country. Every person shall practice social distancing and it’s defined in the SI that was just passed and it just means stay home if you can, avoid crowds and refrain from touching one another as much as possible.”
From twenty-five to ten – it is a challenging task especially when the buses are still being allowed to run with full seating capacity. According to Peyrefitte, there are some things that they just have to try and make adjustments for.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “We’re limiting the transportation on the buses to the seating capacity of the bus so if the bus only seats thirty people or twenty five people that’s the maximum amount of people that can be on the bus, the seating capacity,no standing on the buses. Every bus operator arriving at the terminal must instruct the passengers to disembark and oversee the sanitization of the bus by the personnel on site. Whenever a bus stops a terminal everybody must come off even if that’s not your last stop the bus must be sanitized and the people before they come back on have to be sanitized along with new passengers that are coming onto the bus.”
Effective today, establishments are known to draw dozens of consumers and customers have been shut down. Restaurants are only allowed curbside service or deliveries.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “As of now casinos and gaming establishments are to be closed. Spas, beauty salons, barber shops are to be closed. Gyms, sporting complexes are to be closed. Disco techs, bars, rum shops, night clubs are to be closed immediately. Restaurants, saloons, diners and other similar establishments are to be closed except that restaurants, saloon diners and other similar establishments may operate to offer take out services only. You sell your liquor or those shops that liquor licenses you sell your liquor or the shop sells the liquor you are to, per the license, take that liquor away and not consume it on the premises that’s already on the law but we’re saying we’re going to enforce it now. If you are not enforcing your license restriction that says “Liquor is not to be consumed on the premises.” and people are doing that your licenses will be revoked. So if you are a shop and you sell beer or liquor you can continue to do that but you cannot have people be consuming alcohol on the premises. Every business shall ensure that all customers and staff maintain physical distances of no less than three feet in or outside their business. So if you have a shop based on the size you can determine how many people are allowed in the shop or not, it depends on the size of the shop maybe only five make sense, only twenty five make sense however, however amount of people are in the shop if you have twenty five people in the shop you must make sure that your shop is big enough that there can be three feet away from each other and three feet away from each other at the check out line. If people are in line outside waiting to go into the shop you must have markers outside indicating three feet so these people in line outside must stay three feet away from each other. No person shall host nor attend a private party which includes any person from outside the immediate household of the house occupant. No more house parties, no more private parties unless it’s being done with people who live at the house because remember the overall theme we want people to be encouraged to say home as much as possible. There is to be no recreational or competitive sporting events. No wedding which hosts ten or more persons other than the bride, bridegroom, official witnesses and the marriage officer. A banquet, ball or reception those are not supposed to happen anymore. No more social events. Any other ceremony of public worship in any facility or public space which involves the participation of any member of the general public, no more public worship, none of that.; certain churches have already discontinued mass celebrations. No funeral except ten members of the immediate family and at least one officiant and essential mortuary staff, or a meeting of a fraternal society, private or social club or civic associations or organization. Lodges, lodge meetings, don’t have any more lodge meetings at this point. There will be the closure of market or other public space so if there to be the purchases of goods or anything like that it is to be done at a new area that is wide open that will allow people to follow the social distancing rules that we have and the public will be notified as to where they can buy their fruits and vegetables.”
As indicated by Peyrefitte, the exception of this social gathering rule often will be on residences with more than ten household members and public transportation. Anything outside these two areas will be deemed an offense and persons could be charged.