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Oct 2, 2020

Douglas D’Silva Camp Now the Central Quarantine Facility for COVID-19

Douglas D’Silva Camp is located well within the lush forests of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve. The facility has been retrofitted to accommodate COVID-19 patients, primarily deportees and border jumpers.  Its remote location is a deterrent for those patients who intend to flee the facility since for miles and miles; the terrain is rugged and accessible only by vehicular traffic.  B.D.F. soldiers are on guard to man the central quarantine facility.  News Five’s Duane Moody journeyed to the camp and files the following report.

 

Captain Carlos Blanco, Commander, D’Silva Quarantine Facility

“We are approximately around thirty-six to forty miles to the nearest town.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

This B.D.F.-controlled compound on the Caracol Road, deep in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve of the Cayo District is Camp Douglas D’Silva.  Though remote, it is known as the Chinese Village because prior to being the staging ground for military training operations, it was once used as the housing camp for engineers and construction workers of the Chalillo Dam.

 

Anthony Velasquez

Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez, Commanding Officer, First Infantry Battalion, B.D.F.

“This facility existed for a number of years and it has been used by the B.D.F. for a number of different purposes, mostly training. We’ve also rented out the facility to foreign military to do training in this area.”

 

In its response to the COVID situation in Belize – specifically as it relates to border jumpers, contrabandists and those who have broken strict quarantine regulation – tens of thousands of dollars were invested into retrofitting the camp with proper infrastructure to transform it into a quarantine facility for the entire country.

 

Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez

“A fair number of resources, effort, money, skill was put into developing this facility – getting the buildings ready, putting up divisions, fence, making the facility livable and ready to accept up to a hundred detainees and over forty soldiers as staff and security.”

 

At the end of August, a small group of persons were transferred and today, there are forty-one quarantined persons held at the facility. These persons, four of whom are women, include some twenty-seven deportees that arrived in the country on September twenty-fifth, among others detained by police over the past few weeks from several jurisdictions.

 

Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez

“…from Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Orange Walk and from San Ignacio as well. And it went relatively smoothly, the transport of them here; the soldiers were already in place. They accepted them in, they documented them and they were placed in their quarters. At the beginning we only had about seventeen detainees and it has since increased from the end of August to this number, forty-one. We have taken people from here. As soon as their fourteen days is up or their negative tests come back, they are taken to the Victor Galvez Stadium in San Ignacio where the police or immigration department would then take them to court. As soon as the letter from the Ministry of Health is ready, we move them from here and take them back to San Ignacio.”

 

To ensure the safety of both the quarantined persons and the complement of forty B.D.F. soldiers who man the facility around the clock, the persons are ferried via assigned vans to the location. They are processed individually and, depending on their COVID-19 status and gender, placed in designated units on the compound where they are mandatorily quarantined until they are re-swabbed and test results are negative.

 

Carlos Blanco

Captain Carlos Blanco

“Every key information that is possible that we can get from them is entered into a database, which helps us to track the days, the condition that they have and their status. After these guys have been processed, they are assigned specific dorms which will be divided and segregated amongst their status. After they have been assigned, they get a complete briefing on the facility and explain to them and put emphasis that this is a facility—it is not a detention centre, it is not a jail. We facilitate things for them. The most important thing is that we provide a safe and secure environment so that these guys can pass their fourteen days and then continue with their life.”

 

Because they are not in jail, the quarantined persons are afforded all the basic rights to food and water; they are also given items for personal hygiene. They must still maintain social distancing and wear masks.

Now there have been reports in the past of escape from quarantine facilities across the country, so there are security protocols in place at Camp D’Silva.

 

Elwin Hill

Sgt. Elwin Hill, Security Sergeant, D’Silva Quarantine Facility

“We are equipped with lethal and nonlethal weapons. Depending on the aggression that they come with, that’s how we are going to react. Basically, we have them fenced in. These guys are really cooperative; they work with us hand-in-hand, they abide by the rules that we apply and we have no issues with them. But if anything escalate, we have well-trained soldiers who know how to react to those kind of situations.”

 

While there are two trained B.D.F. medics on the compound, there is no Ministry of Health rep stationed at the camp and so swabbing at day ten for the quarantined persons has not been efficient. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Velasquez says that those issues in this multiagency initiative are being ironed out.

 

Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez

“This is a multiagency effort, so we needed to coordinate more with the Ministry of Health, but I think we’ve ironed that problem out. It’s an ongoing process, our coordination with the Ministry of Health to get this happening.”

 

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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