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May 29, 2020

P.G.I.A. Won’t Reopen on July First

Today marks a record forty-six days since there are no new cases of coronavirus recorded in Belize and the prime minister took the occasion to address the nation on the way forward.  But first, we’ll begin with news pertaining to international air travel and tourism.  The Philip Goldson International Airport, despite a further relaxation of regulations under the national state of emergency, will remain closed for the time being and there is no fixed date for when Belize will resume international travel.  This morning, during a virtual press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained various reasons why the country’s only international airport will not reopen come July first as had been forecasted.  Several factors were taken into consideration, though there was a majority vote at the Cabinet and National Oversight Committee levels in favour of that previous date.  As it stands, the number of COVID-19 cases in neighbouring Central American countries and Mexico has ballooned over the past few days.  Likewise, the United States continues to experience record cases of infections and deaths.  American visitors comprise as much as seventy-five percent of Belize’s tourism market.  So when will international air travel officially resume?  Here’s what the PM had to say.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It surely is not hard to understand why we so ardently wished for a go at the P.G.I.A.   Tourism is our largest job creator and the biggest contributor to GDP and foreign exchange earnings.  In 2019, for example, total tourism expenditure in Belize was five hundred and two point three million U.S. dollars, but COVID-19 is decimating the industry.  The devastation is such that between January and April of this year, tourist spending in Belize fell by eighty-two million U.S. dollars over the same period last year and until the P.G.I.A. can reopen it is only going to get worst.  25:12 In: Now even as we pushed to reopen, we had to bear certain facts well in mind.  With regard to international travel prohibition, the U.S. decision to ban Chinese travelers from as early as January of this year was widely applauded.  At its peak though, only eighty-two thousand of one point three billion Chinese were infected and Chinese visitors to the U.S. represented just about three percent of the U.S. total annual visitors, yet the U.S. proceeded with its embargo on Chinese travel to America.  Currently, the U.S. also bans visitors from Brazil.  Three hundred and twenty thousand Brazilians are infected out of a total population of two hundred and ten million and Brazilians represent just four percent of visitor flows to the U.S.  In our own case, vis-à-vis the U.S., we had to reflect on the fact that there are one point eight million Americans infected.  A third of all COVID-19 deaths are U.S. and that country is the source of seventy-five percent of our visitors.  So the U.S., in circumstances of a relatively miniscule visitor flow from Brazil and China, nevertheless froze all travel from those two countries.  The logic for our initial proscription ban on travel to Belize from the U.S. in the context of their world-leading infection rate and their being our seventy-five percent source market is thus clearly irrefutable.  That is why our drive to reopen the P.G.I.A. had to be subject to our doing our absolute best to mitigate the undeniable and serious risk of imported infections coming from any resumed flow of U.S. visitors.”

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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