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Mar 13, 2020

Still NO Cases of COVID-19 in Belize; Ministry of Health Prepares for the Inevitable

As the situation continues to evolve and the coronavirus inches closer to Belize, the Ministry of health today revealed its strategy on how it will communicate with the public when COVID-19 is established inside our borders.  The ministry calls on the population to remain calm and well-informed and to practice preventative measures. The ministry today said that on confirmation of a first case, the announcement will be made in line with international standards. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

As tensions continue to rise on the inevitably of COVID-19 in Belize, media personnel were today sensitized about the novel coronavirus and what is the contingency plan going forward. Facts are that in seventy-three days, the virus spread to one hundred and eighteen countries; up to March twelfth, there were four thousand six hundred and fourteen deaths associated with the virus and the rate of infection is two point six persons to every infected individual. Twenty-two out of thirty-five countries in the Americas have confirmed cases, with Guatemala now recording its first case. The last time a pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization was in 2009, due to the spread of H1N1, better known as Swine Flu. To date, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Belize and the Ministry of Health is actively searching and working with the community for prevention.

 

Claudette Dakers-Noralez

Claudette Dakers-Noralez, Information Officer, Ministry of Health

“It has been a lot of information being shared with us. We get information from various sources, from yourself the media, from the public. We have made it public that we do have a 0-800-MOH-CARE phone number for persons to call and share their concerns, to clarify any rumours, to address any information that they may not be certain about. If we suspect, if we are concerned about somebody with signs and symptoms in relation to COVID-19. We created an information card and the flipside of the card has cell number contacts for surveillance persons or surveillance teams that are headed per district.”

 

Claudette Dakers-Noralez is also the communications officer for a recently created task force that will be responsible for the timely dissemination of official information as it relates to COVID-19. The Task Force along with a Cabinet-sanctioned National Coordinating Team is responsible for on the ground awareness campaign for public sensitization about the virus and steps to be taken. Heading the education campaign is Technical Advisor for the Health Education and Community Participation Bureau, Kathleen Azueta-Cho.

 

Kathleen Azueta-Cho

Kathleen Azueta-Cho, Technical Advisor, HECOPAB

“The Ministry of Health is working closely with the Ministry of Education. We will be meeting with them on Monday along with other partners like the Red Cross Society and UNICEF. We are pretty much strengthening our forces, going into the schools; all the education materials have been shared among all these organizations and line ministries. The idea is to keep the prevention messages going.  Start looking at your plan of action; identify a place if possible in your facility that you can possibly use as an isolation area. If you have persons looking after an individual who is displaying symptoms, have just that one person looking at that individual. Avoid crowd or people waiting too much in the crowded area. Again just being extra cautious—if you are sick, try to avoid going out and interacting with other people in the community.”

 

There have been several unconfirmed reports of suspected cases of COVID-19. The most recent circulating was that a three-year-old, exhibiting respiratory complications, had been rushed to the K.H.M.H. from a medical centre on south side Belize City. Now, even though the symptoms may be similar to that of the novel coronavirus, the ministry defines a suspect case using several factors including an individual’s travel history among other things. Dakers-Noralez shares how the announcement of the first laboratory-confirmed case in Belize will be made using regional standards established by the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

 

Claudette Dakers-Noralez

“Ideally, depending on the time of the announcement, we will do a live broadcast through the assistance of the Government Press Office to have either the Minister, the Prime Minister or the Director of Health Services to publicly announce that we have confirmed our first case. Immediately following that live announcement, a press release will be sent out and as well our international partners who need to know of this first case will also be notified as soon as possible. That press release will include age, gender, location as close as a region. The Ministry of Health has several regions—northern, southern, central. We will speak of where the person is being managed and as well our contact trace activity that will follow based on that confirmed case.”

 

This novel coronavirus is not airborne and is transmitted when an infected person contaminates a surface which is then touched by a healthy person who then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. It can also spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs within less than three feet away from another individual. This is the reason why social distancing and hand washing are among the best practices that can be adopted.

 

Claudette Dakers-Noralez

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. We ask you to continue to regularly wash your hands with soap, with running water. You can use a hand sanitizer, seventy-percent alcohol base—there is also ways of making your own sanitizer—as well to practice good cough, sneeze etiquette, social distancing. It is basically to keep stressing on the preventative measures so that when COVID-19 comes to Belize, there is as less or mitigated in the spread of the infection.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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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