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Jan 22, 2021

Fewer COVID Cases, but Belize Remains Far From an All-Clear

Several government officials have confirmed that there should be an adjustment to the existing COVID-19 regulations at the start of next month.  We don’t know the details of those changes as yet.  But with all the talk about the curfew, whether it is unconstitutional or needs to be adjusted, we decided to take a closer look at the results of the past month’s enhanced measures to curb the spread of virus.  When the regulations came into effect on December twentieth, there were over fifteen hundred active cases countrywide. And today, that number is down to four hundred and twenty-five.  While that is a notable reduction in active cases, it does not mean that the country is entirely out of the woods.  This afternoon, Acting Director of Health Services, Doctor Melissa Diaz-Musa, provided an update on Belize’s COVID-19 crisis.  She says that while there is optimism based on lower numbers over the past two weeks, there should also be caution because of the overall positivity rate. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It has been a month since new measures were implemented by the Government of Belize to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.  The number of new cases fluctuated initially, before trending downwards in the past few days.  While there is a steady decrease in the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive, the Ministry of Health says that we do not have a handle on the situation just yet.

 

Melissa Diaz-Musa

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, Acting Director of Health Services

“Over the last month since we’ve had the new restrictions in place, we have noticed that there is a decrease in the positivity rate almost consistently.  This can be attributed to the restrictions, but as well there are many factors that help a country to reduce its positivity rate and we have embarked on the massive rollout of rapid testing and mobile clinics doing testing.  So we’re not only waiting at our flu clinics for patients to come in but we have actually gone out to many villages, towns, town centers, to different places in order to try to detect the person who is positive and isolate that person quickly.”

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa, the Acting Director of Health Services, in observing the trend, remains hopeful, but recognizes the challenges in minimizing the positivity rate and maintaining it at five percent.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa

“We are cautiously optimistic and we are very pleased with the numbers coming down in Orange Walk and Corozal.  In fact, in the entire country over the last week, the ROE which tells us how many persons would become infected if one person is infected is below one.  So that is very good, but that’s not to say that we have control of this pandemic and this is very important for the general public to know.  You’ve got to have a positivity rate of consistently less than five percent for at least twenty-eight days for us to say we have good control.  Now the rates have fluctuated and it has come down to under twenty percent over the last two weeks.  Mostly, it would be ten percent or eleven percent but the range is from as low as six and going back up to nineteen percent and of course this depends on how many tests were ran that day, how many mobile clinics were done and lots of different factors.”

 

As with many other illnesses, detecting COVID-19 in its nascence allows for individuals to be quarantined earlier, thereby mitigating its spread.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa

“The earlier that we’re able to detect a case, the earlier we are able to isolate that case and the earlier we are able to manage that person.  So these three factors are very important in controlling the spread.”

 

In critical areas where the disease has taken hold, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has had to introduce mobile clinics.  An abundance of caution has also prompted the testing of frontline workers afflicted with other illnesses.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz-Musa

“Every day we wait to see the trend and we reach out to all our teams doing the testing, going to mobile clinics and trying to get some data and information and if we do see areas where we think transmission is higher, we would focus a lot in those areas, like rolling out more mobile clinics and doing the expanded active surveillance.  So now, if somebody comes to the clinic for something else but they’re a frontline worker, they work at the clinic, they work at the banks, they’re in one of the ministries dealing with the public, construction sites, these people are also considered people at high risk so they would also be asked to do a swab even if they are asymptomatic.”

 

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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