Belize is clear of any confirmed cases of COVID-19. That is the official announcement that came out of a press conference this afternoon, led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “As of this moment there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Belize.”
With yesterday’s announcement by the World Health Organization of the COVID-19 being a pandemic, Prime Minister assured the public that the health and well-being of the Belizean people are at the forefront of the government’s business. Several meetings have been taking place since Saturday and yesterday the Cabinet met to solidify a preventative and reactionary plan for the inevitable arrival of this strain of the coronavirus.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The Cabinet convened a special meeting yesterday to address COVID-19. Coming out of that meeting Cabinet confirmed the establishment of a COVID-19 task force and a COVID-19 National Oversight Committee. Now I use the words confirmed establishment advisedly yesterday because in fact I had set the wheels in motion for these things to happen since Saturday; that was the day I called various individuals, various leaders including the Leader of the Opposition, the head of the Council of Churches, Senator Salas from the Belize National Network of NGOs and the President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I have asked the Leader of the Opposition and I did so since Saturday as I indicated and he has accepted; I’ve asked him to co-chair with me the National Oversight Committee. Remember I said there are two entities that we are forming, the COVID-19 Task force and the COVID-19 National Oversight Committee I’m dealing with the latter first for reasons that will become clear. So I have asked the Leader of the Opposition and he has accepted to co-chair with me that National Oversight Committee. Apart from government and opposition the committee will be made up of representatives from the Belize Council of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Belize National Network of NGOs and the Belize Social Security Board. The NTUCB has also been invited to name a representative but has not yet responded.”
As indicated by the Prime Minister, all hands are on deck and the Leader of the Opposition has since confirmed his willingness to co-chair the national oversight committee. The national oversight committee is one of two bodies being established. The other is the task force headed by the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The day to day public health response will of course be the principal responsibility of the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Task Force. The second entity we are creating is as I said the COVID-19 Task Force; that will be chaired by Dr.Marvin Manzanero the Director of Health Services. It will include mainly representatives from the front line government and quasi government agencies but all the social partners are being asked to participate as well in this committee. We are also seeking expert assistance for the committee to come from both locals not in the public service and from foreign governments willing to help. We have in particular reached out to our Cuban friends and will seek from them one or more public health experts to join their medical brigade already in our country. Taiwan seems to have had great success in dealing with this crisis so we will also be looking to borrow some of their health officials. Locally persons such as Laura Longsworth, Head of the National AIDS Committee and a retired nurse, retired Belizean doctor Michael Vernon who worked in the US with the Centers for Disease Control and the heads of agencies like the Diabetes Association can also be pressed into service. I need to make clear that while this task force is now being expanded and formalized the Ministry of Health has had its own working group operational since January of 2020.”