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Mar 19, 2020

Caye Caulker Preparing for COVID-19

Even as Belize remains free of a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, the entire country is bracing for the inevitability. There is already an economic downturn in the tourism sector, one of the biggest revenue generators. Tour operators have shut down and many businesses and hotels are closing their doors. The B.T.B., we are told, is sending home fifty percent of staff.  This is because the revenue collected from the nine percent accommodation tax has dwindled with each cancelation.  At Caye Caulker, a health committee is assisting visitors to observe the preventative protocols to safeguard the island, which is a main tourism destination. Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The island of Caye Caulker is bracing for an economic downturn, but is doing its share to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Health has been advising the public on best practices when it comes to hygiene and social distancing as preventative measures to be taken. A Caye Caulker Health Committee has been formed to stay on top of the issue.  Chairlady Seleny Villanueva-Pott says that hand sanitization takes place when persons arrive and depart the island.


Seleny Villanueva-Pott

Seleny Villanueva-Pott, Chairlady, Caye Caulker Village

“We’ve also set up hand sanitization of all ports of entries to Caye Caulker. So if you come on the plane, you will be handed hand sanitizers; boarding the boats, you are being handed hand sanitizers. On both water taxi ferries, you are supposed to be given hand sanitizers before you reach the island. This week, we have a second phase that we will implement which will be fumigation of luggage. We’ve seen a drastic decline in tourists due to all the bans that are being put in place. Safety is first and for us, it is taking care of our community, hence the reason why we have decided to be proactive.”


With that, the committee has established a hotline for residents as well as tourists to contact the medical team in case of emergencies.


Seleny Villanueva-Pott

“We’ve decided to create a hotline number if there anybody experiencing any symptoms and if there are visitors on the island and you notice a cough, shortness of breath, fever, or anything of that, you call the number, get the information from the proper health personnel and then we move from there. If the nurse or the doctor needs to do a triage, it is done over the phone and then we make movements from there.”


There are two doctors and several nurses currently installed on the island; one of the doctors is in private practice while the other is manning the medical centre. Doctor Salim Manii says that only persons with non-communicable diseases will be treated at the medical centre; others who may be exhibiting respiratory illnesses will be taken care of through distant management.


Salim Manii

Dr. Salim Manii, Caulker Medical Centre

“Distant management and consultation. We do not want them to come. We have our hotline; through that they call me, call the next doctor—we have two doctors here, one in private and one in the government. We discuss the case. COVID-19 is like flu, it is like common cold. All the medication they will receive is over the counter so no need to come. They can go to the store, pharmacy and buy them. I will give them the guideline if you are an adult or children and what to do. Let’s start from Viro Grip, which is for adults and children. You can start at home. Get your liquids, pedialite and hydration salts. No need to come and see us. No need to come and contaminate the area or the clinic.”


Doctor Salim also shared best advice for islanders.


Dr. Salim Manii

“Coronavirus is a heavy virus; maybe three to four feet after sneezing it drops of surfaces. So best advice is don’t touch; that’s number one. Number two, just no more communication, no more gathering, no more kissing, hugging; touching each other. Not to be in the public, be careful. Handling money, you got to be careful. Public areas; that’s the shortest I can say, no touching. And stay at home.”


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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