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Apr 2, 2020

The Impact of COVID-19 on Corozal

Rigoberto Vellos

Up north in Corozal Town, lines formed at supermarkets and banks as residents conducted last minute shopping, prior to the start of the curfew. But on Wednesday, a few miles away at the northern border and inside the Corozal Free Zone, the area was deserted as businesses shuttered. The slowdown on economic activity is on as the town prepares a month of closure. Here is Duane Moody with a report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The impact of COVID-19 on economies has been fast and furious and as the number of confirmed cases and associated deaths continues to rise, world leaders search for answers. Here in Belize, there are only three laboratory-confirmed cases; two of which were imported. But even before the start of a state of emergency, major industries, particularly tourism buckled. The effects extend as far north as the free zone in the Corozal District where almost one thousand employed have been sent home. The Santa Elena border area is at a standstill and only gas stations inside the zone are still operating. There was a slowdown in traffic even before the closure of all border entry points last Monday.


Rigoberto Vellos, Mayor, Corozal Town

“The great effect is gonna be felt at the zone. If I am not mistaken there is close to a thousand workers there who are jobless right now. It is not an easy thing to just swallow if you were working there; that means a thousand workers without a single penny for the next thirty days.”


In Corozal Town today, residents were making last minute purchases ahead of the thirty-day nationwide state of emergency. There were lines outside financial institutions. But a visit to the farmers’ market shows that the lifeblood of Corozal – agriculture – has dwindled.  Mayor Rigoberto Vellos says it was a decision taken by the farmers from two weeks ago as a precautionary measure.


Rigoberto Vellos

“From the very beginning when the first case popped up, the market—it was not closed down by us—it was the vendors who decided not to go to the market anymore to sell. That’s an initiative taken by them, which is very good. It shows that they are willing to work with what is set on standard and I commend them for that. It will take each individual to make sure that everyone out there is safe also. It will have a tremendous on the economy for the whole country and for Corozal of course. It is a pity that it will be mainly here at Corozal the poor people that will feel. Now we depend a lot on agriculture also and those are the people who look forward to the market days to go out and make their small change. We have people in Corozal that literally lives by what they get at the end of the day—what we call ketch and kill. We have a lot of tacos vendors, tamales vendors, people that go out and sell bread. Those are the people that we worry a lot about because they won’t be allowed anymore to make their small change to survive.”


Vellos says that the revenues collected by the town council from market vendors and other establishments has reduced tremendously, threatening the council’s ability to service the municipality.


Rigoberto Vellos 

“Revenue has been slashed by a lot. We are not even receiving fifteen percent of our revenue. And we need to keep in mind all the workers, all the employees of the Corozal Town Council. This is not an administration that will ever think about firing people because of this situation. So it is our duty along with the government to work together to find solutions to the problems that we are having now. We have started doing out shuffling and putting things into place that is needed for daylight tomorrow. We started here at the Town Council and as you can see at the moment we have very minimal workers in the council. The only workers that you can see here are the ones that needs to provide essential services for our community.”


The council employs over a hundred persons. 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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