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Apr 23, 2003

SARS travel ban clarified; Canadians okay

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The travel ban announced yesterday in response to the SARS epidemic had many people in the tourism industry suffering headaches at least as severe as any produced by the virus. With the announcement of an outright ban on visitors from Canada, for example, several hotel and tour operators were facing as much as a twenty percent loss of revenue. After a day of confusion, however, the Minister of Home Affairs, Ralph Fonseca, today clarified government’s position. The ban on entry into Belize by citizens of six countries was not really a ban on entry, just a ban on obtaining a visa. Here’s how it went at a press conference this afternoon.

Ralph Fonseca, Minister of Home Affairs

“When we say that we ban the travel, for instance from India to Belize or from Canada to Belize or China, we are not saying that if they are Belizeans there that they can’t come to Belize, obviously. What we are saying is that if there is someone in Canada or in India or one of these places that are facing a serious problem with this thing, and they show up at a Belize office to get a visa, that there is a temporary ban on that visa. And what we are also saying is our guys at the airport, the immigration people, will say to people coming from those countries go over in that line and in that line there will be someone from the health department I guess, which will take the necessary precautions. How they do it, that’s not my…I am not competent to advise myself, but obviously they are in touch with the WHO and we are following the same kind of protocols, but we believe that it was better to be conservative and issue that kind of notice now. Cause if you have only one case in Belize it would obviously affect our tourism industry. But in the way of clarification, that is what that press release meant.”

Stewart Krohn

“So we can get it clear, what your press release said was that there was a temporary ban on entry into Belize of persons from those six countries. You’re saying that is not the case?”

Ralph Fonseca

“There is a temporary ban on the issuance of travel documents to facilitate people travelling from those countries to Belize.”

Stewart Krohn

“Canadians don’t need visas to enter Belize.”

Ralph Fonseca

“No. But you can have somebody in Canada that needs a visa, yet is not a Canadian. That’s a Canadian resident maybe, and he would go into a Belize embassy and they would say we are very sorry, we cannot issue a visa.”

Stewart Krohn

“So Canadians are welcome?”

Ralph Fonseca

“Canadians are welcome, but they will go into that line and they will be asked questions I guess and follow a certain protocol.”

Stewart Krohn

“Another question regarding India, India is on the list, but according to the WHO website, there has been on one instance of suspected SARS and no deaths in the entire billion population of India, so just curious why is India on that list?”

Ralph Fonseca

“Well the information that my office has is that we should be concerned about India, and we’ve acted accordingly.”

Stewart Krohn

“So no visas for any Indian?”

Ralph Fonseca

“No visas for Indians that need visas to come to Belize. There are many Indians that are Belizeans that don’t need visas.”

Stewart Krohn

“A normal Indian passport holder would need a visa?”

Ralph Fonseca

“Yes sir.”

Stewart Krohn

“So no visas will be issued to any Indian until further notice?”

Ralph Fonseca

“Until further notice, yeah.”

Just in case it’s still not clear, let’s recap. If you are a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam or India–all of whom require visas to enter Belize–you will not be able to obtain a Belize visa until further notice. If you are a Canadian citizen–and Canadians don’t need visas to enter Belize–you are as welcome as ever…but be prepared to answer a lot of questions about where you live, where you’ve been and what you do.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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