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Mar 30, 2020

A Third Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Belize

Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke to the nation today in a pre-recorded statement on the virus that’s turning life upside down.  First, there is a third confirmed case of COVID-19.  The person is from Belize City; he travelled from New York on March twentieth and is now in isolation. And now that there is a first case in the most densely populated area of the mainland, there are more restrictive measures. A nationwide state of emergency is to take effect on Wednesday, April first.  Certain areas of the country have been placed under state of emergency over the years, but a countrywide shutdown has not been imposed since 1981, at the time of the Heads of Agreement. That is thirty-nine years ago, so many will not recall what it was like then, and now the circumstances are much different.  Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Belize is tonight preparing for an imminent shutdown, hard on the heels of a third coronavirus diagnosis.  On Sunday night, the Director of Health Services announced that another individual had tested positive for COVID-19.  That case involves a resident of Belize City who recently returned from New York, the focal point of the outbreak in the United States.  This afternoon, Prime Minister Dean Barrow addressed the nation in a recorded statement.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Yesterday, a Belizean that had returned from New York on March twentieth, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.  That person claims to have been in self-isolation since his arrival back in Belize and was able to show health workers the contained and separate lower flat of the building in which his claimed isolation took place.  The individual, though testing positive, is exhibiting only mild symptoms and is not currently in need of hospitalization.  Nevertheless, he is living in Belize City, home to the largest population concentration in our country.”


Doctor Marvin Manzanero has been leading the charge against COVID-19.  Along with a medical team, several tests were recently conducted.  Of that batch comes the third confirmed case.


Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“Nine samples were screened today.  One of those samples turned out to be positive for COVID-19.  That sample is from a male person who has a travel history to the U.S. who arrived in the country March twentieth.  The patient has been asymptomatic for the most part but developed mild signs and symptoms on March twenty-fifth.  The patient was swabbed on March twenty-seventh and today the screening and confirmatory test has confirmed that he is positive for COVID-19.  That patient remains in self-isolation and the Ministry of Health’s surveillance team has been activated and alerted to start conducting their mapping exercise.”


That activity will now seek to virtually retrace the patient’s footsteps in order to determine those who may have come into contact with him since his arrival at the Phillip Goldson International Airport ten days ago.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“For the National Oversight Committee and for the Cabinet of Belize, this is very significant.  Clearly, the crowds in the Old Capital make us more susceptible to widespread transmission.  Thus, a comprehensive tracing of the afflicted individuals possible contacts and a wider mapping exercise are both being done by the Ministry of Health team.  In this connection, both the evidence from other countries and the advice from our own experts agree on one thing, the best way to at least slow and hopefully stop the spread of the virus is by strictly enforcing the physical distancing, self-isolation, quarantining and other such rules.”


The latest development in respect of government’s response to COVID-19 has precipitated swift and decisive action.  In the days ahead, the entire country will come under a state of emergency, as the National Oversight Committee attempts to stem the potential spread of this contagion citywide.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Even though we have already imposed a state of emergency for Ambergris Caye and passed two statutory instruments imposing penalties, including jail time for those that do not comply with the law, too many Belizeans are not taking the measures seriously enough.  In all the circumstances we consider it our duty now to do even more to prevent any chance of Belize City becoming an epicenter of COVID-19, indeed to try to protect our entire country from the novel coronavirus.”


Once again, as with San Pedro last week, Sir Colville Young will be called upon to sign into effect a legal declaration allowing government assumption of extraordinary powers to include, among other things, a restriction on the movement of citizens.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Accordingly, I will be advising His Excellency the Governor General to declare a nationwide state of emergency for the country of Belize.  This will go into effect at midnight on Wednesday, April first and will include a curfew from eight p.m. to five a.m. every day.  The state of emergency is to last for thirty days in the first instance.  For its duration, people will be advised to shelter in place even during daylight hours and only to come out as absolutely necessary for purposes of procuring supplies and doing such business and activities as are exigently required.”


The powers that be, according to PM Barrow, have been working out the details of such a drastic measure, preparing a contingency.  That time is nigh upon us.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Our national taskforce and our caucus of C.E.O.s have been planning for this eventuality for some time now.  Nevertheless, and as we had promised, we are giving a couple of days notice for two reasons; our people must have a chance to prepare for the new normal and our officials must have a little more time to ensure that all systems are in place to guarantee the absolute availability of food stuffs and other critical supplies.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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