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Mar 12, 2020

G.O.B. Prepares the Nation of COVID-19

Dean Barrow

In this region, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago are the latest countries to confirm their first cases of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, referred to as COVID-19, which has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Tonight, we can verify that there are no confirmed cases in Belize and two samples are being tested for the virus. Now, due to the gravity of the situation globally, this afternoon, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced a number of measures that will be put in place to combat the disease when it is found in Belize.  There is the issue of preventative measures in the public health sector, impact on employees and employers in the private sector as well as the economic ramifications that can arise from shocks to the tourism industry and the private sector, which is the mainstay of the economy.  First, a Task Force and a National Oversight Committee have been established to be co-chaired with the Leader of the Opposition, and will include civil society, to tackle the major health concern.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Cabinet confirmed the establishment of a COVID-19 Taskforce and a COVID-19 National Oversight Committee.  Now I use the word “confirmed” or 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 N.G.O.s 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 have asked him to co-chair with me the National Oversight Committee.  The purpose of this committee is to provide ultimate overall supervision of Belize’s efforts to deal with COVID-19.  The day-to-day public health response will of course be the principal responsibility of the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Taskforce and you will shortly hear extensively from the Director of Health Services in this regard.   Accordingly, while the National Oversight Committee in its efforts at superintendence will look at everything, it will especially zero in on the economic aspects of the crisis.  Thus, at our first meeting scheduled for this coming Monday, we will hear from the Governor of the Central Bank, the Financial Secretary and the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Economic Development.  They, together with S.S.B., will help the committee to map out the necessary response to deal with the impacts of the crisis on employees on employers and on all sectors of the Belize economy.  Matters we will be looking at include: emergency aid to workers, a possible tax deferral, a supplementary allocation, budgetary allocation for corona-related outlays, duty-free importation of essential supplies, a moratorium on loan repayments on loan repayments at banks and credit unions and post corona stimulus, fiscal stimulus by even more accelerated capital spending, salary advances to public officers and things of that sort.”


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