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COVID UPDATE

Tracing continues in Northern Belize for COVID-19 cases

Up to news time, Belize remains at forty-eight cases of COVID-19. Late last week, the Ministry of Health reported that the forty-eighth case is a relative to the last four patients diagnosed in an Orange Walk community. Contact tracing for the previous cluster led to the detection of this latest case. The tracing is still ongoing for this case which may result in further cases, as explained by Director of Health Services, Marvin Manzanero.

Up to news time, Belize remains at forty-eight cases of COVID-19. Late last week, the Ministry of Health reported that the forty-eighth case is a relative to the last four patients diagnosed in an Orange Walk community. Contact tracing for the previous cluster led to the detection of this latest case. The tracing is still ongoing for this case which may result in further cases, as explained by Director of Health Services, Marvin Manzanero.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “The last cluster is the one from Orange Walk. Five family members all linked to illegal crossing in Orange Walk. So those four cases initially diagnosed or detected on Thursday and one other family member on Friday. Contact tracing had already started from when these people were initially reported. They were isolating if you will in a farm close to Carmelita Village. They had reported being on the Mexican side due to a family emergency for the first part of June and since then they had not been crossing the border over there. Because of when we found them which six to seven weeks later we don’t anticipate that they actually got infected when they visited the Mexican community across the border but what we later found out is that one of their family members has continued to come from the Mexican side,who lives on the Mexican side, to come to visit them at the farm where they have been isolating. So they were aware it would seem that they had been at risk that’s the reason why they went to isolation to a farm but we assume that the family member who comes and goes or who was coming and going routinely every week could have been the source of infection if you will and that’s how the family members became infected. We managed to gather all the data, we managed to also find out because one of the questions people said was how do you know that they’re in fact isolating, I mean we found out a family member was the one who had been providing them with food so they wouldn’t have to come out for all that extended period of time and it was a family member that also had alerted us of the situation with their relatives so that’s why the contact tracing managed to tie up all the pieces. We went back to the community where they are originally from and we could not find any person in that community who had reported seeing them in the last six to seven weeks.” 

The fear of community spread has concerned Belize since there is an increase of Border Jumpers. Dr Manzanero noted that a community spread can be evaded once the rules and regulations are abided by.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “We have not found beyond the clusters that we have identified and Orange Walk has provided the two last biggest clusters if you will with seven and five cases being a greater number than two and we have had two separate groups of two so we have had a case of two, a case of two, then a case of seven and now a case of five that’s a total of sixteen cases for the Orange Walk district; I think only two of those have recovered all of those other ones remain active. We have not found any of the closer contacts identified in contact tracing that have turned out to be positive and also part of our active surveillance entails that people who have any respiratory sign or symptom is going to be swabbed and that sample processed. We have not been in that process identifying any further cases so it doesn’t seem then that there is any community spread. But one of the reasons for doing a quick identification of these cases of border jumpers is precisely to avoid having community spread because you can have people that are asymptomatic who can spread around the disease before you determine that there is a community spread many more cases have come up.”

Earlier today, the Ministry of Health issued information on the origin of the last 30 cases of COVID-19 in Belize. As it stands, 19 of the cases were imported from Mexico, 7 from the US, 2 from Honduras, and 2 from Guatemala. Thirteen of these cases are from the repatriation process, and the remaining seventeen are tied to illegal crossings. Dr Manzanero explained more.

Dr.Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I know there’s a heavy concentration on the opening of airport and a repatriation process but once you have an airport that’s open and you know who is coming in even before they get here that can give you a relative advantage and you’re testing people upon arrival versus the amount of people that are jumping the border illegally and that’s why we gave out the raw numbers in terms of the last thirty cases. Also you will note that even though you have had more people coming from the US through the repatriation process you have not found them to be, when you use that denominator and the people who have turned out positive then that percentage is minimal compared to the amount of people that we have captured jumping the border illegally where your denominator is not that big but your numerator is very big. So once you start tying in those things I think we need to be able to assess that and granted people can be concerned about the airport situation but you also don’t let your guard down. I mean in the communities in Orange Walk or any border communities you can have that hovering issue potential cases that have still not been identified. So community spread can come through there and go unnoticed for days or weeks before you’re able to detect any case so that’s part of the reason we share that information so that people don’t let their guard down and be wary of the fact that before the airport opens we could be talking about community spread if we are not careful.”

Since the first case was diagnosed in Belize on March 22, we have reported forty-eight confirmed cases, twenty-six recovered patients, two deaths and twenty current active cases of Covid-19.