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May 26, 2020

First Group of Belizeans Repatriated by Sea

Belize’s borders remain closed but on Saturday, a first group of Belizeans to be allowed to re-enter Belize due to the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on a Royal Caribbean ship. Belize remains COVID free for forty-five days, so protocols are in place to prevent any imported case by sea, air and land. The group of nationals was on the vessel for more than seventy days and Saturday was the first time they set foot on land. They were immediately placed on quarantine and will remain that way for fourteen days.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A single cruise ship anchored several miles east of Belize City on Saturday morning; however, its arrival in our waters did not signal the resumption of the lucrative tourism industry.  Instead, the Royal Caribbean vessel was here only to drop off a small group of Belizeans who had been onboard for just about two and a half months.


Akeem Gill

Akeem Gill, Art Associate, Celebrity Cruise Line

“We haven’t touched land for the last, today makes seventy-two days since we haven’t touched land.  Our ship was basically just in the Caribbean, we were off the coast of Tampa, Florida.  So nobody touched land, there was nothing that came onboard.  We just stopped to pick up food, everything was actually pretty good.  But it just feel good fi deh back pan land for a long certain period of while.  So for me, I just feel glad, that’s my happiest moment, fi just touch land.”


The country remains under a state of emergency, its borders and ports of entry are closed, even to citizens who find themselves on the outside of its boundaries.  This homecoming is the first repatriation of Belizeans since the total lockdown that began several weeks ago.


Akeem Gill

“On my ship, there wasn’t anybody that actually had COVID-19 onboard, so it was pretty safe.”


Despite being out at sea, away from the coronavirus pandemic that continues to wreak havoc in other countries across the world, Akeem Gill, an art associate employed by Celebrity Cruise Line, is one of a handful of locals who could not re-enter Belize before today.


Akeem Gill

“The information it may sound like when you watch Facebook and stuff like that, it sounds like we were captured or something like that.  That’s the information that I was getting but to me it was nothing like that.  Actually being onboard, they gave us we needed.”


They were all well tended to onboard the cruise ship, but were confined to their respective quarters.  Gladys Bernardez hasn’t seen her husband since he left in January.


Gladys Bernardez

Gladys Bernardez, Wife of Cruise Ship Employee

“It was really, really difficult for me when he was talking to me and telling me, “I am here on the cruise ship in quarantine, locked down and everything.”  It was really, really hard for me.  As a wife, it’s really hard for me.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now you have two kids, how have they been dealing with the fact that their dad has been away for so long?”


Gladys Bernardez

“My children, they are so about the situation but all of us were there for them and everything, talk to them, finally one day he will come back and everything and try to keep them in a good way and everything.”


His safe return to Belizean shores, however, is somewhat of a bittersweet moment since Gladys won’t get to see him until the fourteen-day mandatory quarantine has elapsed.


Gladys Bernardez

“I am so happy this morning because it’s a nice morning to see my husband again [after] so long, for four months and I thank God for that and I am so happy for all my family.”


The scene at the Radisson pier on Saturday morning saw a considerable police and B.D.F. presence.  The immediate area between Baron Bliss Lighthouse and Memorial Park was blocked off to vehicular and foot traffic to ensure that no one came remotely close to members of the group.  For the next two weeks they will be in isolation at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.


Sandra Grisham-Clothier

Sandra Grisham-Clothier, General Manager, Radisson Fort George Hotel

“We’re very, very excited.  We’re excited because this is the first step to continuing to bring people in, but we’re excited to see these Belizeans get off the ship.  As you can see by their enthusiasm they’re very excited.  I’m also excited because they seem like they’ve been under very tight protocols on the ship, so they already know the rules and regulations.  I don’t think we’re going to have any problem with them.  I’m also happy to see that, you know, Belize is on top of this.  We have all the right officials here, we have police presence, actually the B.D.F. is here and they are going to make sure that everyone’s doing the right thing.  And so that’s pretty much the protocol, we’re keeping our social distancing, they won’t be leaving the rooms.  They’ll be handing their linens out and we’ll be handing linens in.  We’re going to keep all the protocols going so we’re all safe.”


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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