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Apr 1, 2020

National State of Emergency is Just a Few Hours Away

It has been thirty-nine years since the last state of emergency of this kind was imposed, but at midnight, a national shutdown will kick in across the country placing restrictions on the movement of persons outside of five in the morning to seven fifty-nine at night when a curfew will be in place.  Businesses considered as essential services, such as the media, supermarkets and pharmacies, will operate with government issued passes and the police and B.D.F. will be on the streets to ensure compliance with the strict measures. Those measures have been articulated in an eighteen-page document that forms the Belize Constitution (Emergency Powers) Regulations 2020.  This is the latest course of action being taken by government in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Belize.   Tonight News Five Isani Cayetano looks what you can expect in the thirty days ahead. 

 

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“When we wake up Thursday morning, we are in a state of national emergency.”

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Across the country, Belizeans will awaken to a new reality on April second.  The biosecurity risk associated with the transmission of the novel coronavirus has prompted government to take stringent measures in restricting the free movement of citizens.  With the Governor General’s assent, the Barrow administration is now empowered to perform actions and impose policies that, under any other circumstance save for a natural disaster, civil unrest or armed conflict; it would not be authorized to carry out.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte

“We have a plan in place, all we’re waiting for is for this to be made official and law and the generals and the colonels will be the ones to direct how best it is to carry out this particular mandate.  As you know, the police have the power of arrest, but in here we are seeing where the police can bring in the help of the B.D.F. and the coastguard to help with arrest if necessary.  But there is a plan in place, it’s a Herculean task indeed because you’re talking about the entire nation, but it is something that we have been thinking about now for the past month.”

 

Given a third confirmation of COVID-19 on March twenty-ninth, the Belize Constitution (Emergency Powers) Regulations 2020 have been enacted, effecting a state of national emergency.  Such a Proclamation warns the citizenry to change normal behavior and requires government agencies, including law enforcement, to implement urgent strategies.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

“We have a plan to implement because indeed, we do want to enforce the law but we want as soft a touch as possible and not as much as the military presence, that’s not necessary.  But if we have to and that’s the only way to enforce what we have to do to prevent anybody else from contracting this disease then that’s what we will do.”

 

This morning, during the final hours just ahead of the national state of emergency, there was a flurry of activity in parts of Belize City.  On the south side, residents of Port Loyola joined a meandering line of last-minute customers at 88 Shopping Center.  Among the policies stipulated in the Belize Constitution (Emergency Powers) Regulations 2020 is social distancing.  Under this piece of law, social distancing is defined as the practice of staying at home, avoiding crowds and refraining from touching one another and maintaining a distance of no less than three feet from other persons.  Many in that queue were not adhering to these guidelines and the police had to be called in.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“It is clear that there is a real risk to the health and lives of Belizeans as a result of the outbreak of this infectious disease.  In response, far-reaching measures must be put in place to limit the negative effects of this pandemic.  I am satisfied, having received the best advice available from experts, and after consultation that it is in the public’s interest to support the decision to declare a state of emergency.”

 

For the purposes of preventing, controlling, containing and suppressing the spread of COVID-19, as well as maintaining peace and public order, a curfew will be imposed during the hours of eight o’clock p.m. and four fifty-nine a.m. of the following morning for the entire country during the public emergency.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, National Oversight Committee

“One of the first things that we’ve done operationally is to step up the emergency operating mechanism that we have, the EOC.  One that has been functioning very well in terms of bringing all the players that have been working so far in the field to coordinate their activities and that EOC will be ramped up and have within it the heads of the various security apparatuses.”

 

The hotline for the National Security EOC is 0-800-COVID 19, that’s 0-800-268-4319. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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