Tourism Industry May Reopen as Early as July

The opening up of the country for Belizeans to move freely to other local destinations can start as early as next week.  But that brings about the question of a pending date when the country will officially reopen for overnight and cruise tourism arrivals.  There is a possibility that visitors can begin arriving as early as July, providing that there are certain safety, as well as public health measures, put in place, including rapid testing for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“This domestic tourism push naturally raises the issue of our opening up to foreign tourism.  We are clearly not there yet and my best guess, my personal guess, is not before July.  That, I would like to note, is also the position of CARICOM as discussed in a virtual meeting of heads that took place earlier this week.  I do want to make clear, though, that I have never said that the opening of our borders will have to wait on a vaccine.  That is the stance of some countries, our ally Taiwan being one such.  It is not my position though.  While ultimately it depends on the National Oversight Committee and the Cabinet, my own view is this.  We must remember that the virus, in some countries, has a mortality rate that is as high as twelve percent.  Before we reopen, we therefore must look at the trajectory of the virus in North America as a whole and in the US in particular.  After all, the US is our biggest tourism market, responsible for over seventy-five percent of our tourism flows.  As long as the rates of infection in the US have not plateaued, we would best beware.  Also, we hope for, though not necessarily wait upon, an effective treatment for those that become critically ill after contracting the virus.  What of course would allow us to hurdle both the barriers I have just referred to is the availability of an effective rapid test.  The latter seems to be getting closer, hence my own reason for feeling that we could be good to go possibly by as early as July.”

Channel 5


What Happens After Monday?

So, there are no new cases of COVID 19 to report tonight, and Belize is coming up on 28 days with a positive test. That would mark the end of an outbreak, or what is being called the first wave.

So what's next for national life? Today, the Prime Minister said the Sate of Emergency measures will be relaxed some more, and, best news, you'll be allowed to go swimming!:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"Monday will be the 28th day, we will reach that 28th day marker, providing this position of no new positive holds through this weekend. If it does so, and we do reach that 28-day milestone, we can promise you a further relaxation of some of the remaining restrictions."

"The National Oversight Committee will meet as usual on Monday, followed by Cabinet on Tuesday. They will be asked now to provide for greater cross district movement, particularly so as to enable a domestic tourism push. The hotels, as you know, have already been given permission to reopen, but now we would expressly provide for the ability of local guests at our hotels to be able to enjoy the amenities, including the pool, including walking along the beach, and including swimming in the sea. Of course, the social distancing requirements will remain in place."

When Will We Open?

So with a push for local tourism to start, when will foreign tourism be permitted. That means opening the airport and cruise. Ports to American visitors - and if you follow international news, you know that the US has recorded 1.3 million cases and almost eighty thousand deaths.

And that's why the PM said that Belize can't open until a rapid test for the coronavirus is widely available:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"This domestic tourism push naturally raises the issue of our opening up to foreign tourism. We are clearly not there yet and my best guess, my personal best guess, is not before July."

"My own view is this. We must remember that the virus, in some countries, has a mortality rate that is as high as 12%. Before we reopen, we therefore must look at the trajectory of the virus in North America as a whole and the US in particular. After all, the US is our biggest tourism market, responsible for over 75% of our tourism flows. As long as the rates of infection in the US have not plateaued, we would best beware. Also, we hope for, though not necessarily wait upon, an effective treatment for those that become critically ill after contracting the virus. What of course could allow us to hurdle both the barriers I have just referred to is the availability of an effective rapid test. That latter seems to be getting closer and closer, hence my own reason for feeling that we could be good to go possibly by as early as July. The ability to immediately test tourists on arrival should be an open sesame. It is not a failsafe, but we clearly, as always, have to juggle saving lives with safeguarding the economy. A rapid test would permit us to let in all tourists that test negative upon arrival."

Is July Too Soon?

And some eager travellers are already paying for their plane tickets to Belize. The airlines are taking reservations for July second - so who gave them that idea? That's what we asked the PM:

Jules Vasquez
"International airlines are now taking bookings I see for early July flights into Belize and so is that as a product of communication with someone in authority? Is that a date that you all are looking or are they just being speculative?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I believe now that they are aiming for a July date, again, aspirationally, is to coincide with the end of the state of emergency which of course is to take place at the conclusion of the month of June, but that's where it is. They have put this, I suspect they did put this to the BTB who would be authorized to say no more than well that sounds good aspirationally, but of course it is government that would have to decide whether or not to allow this to happen, whether or not to open the borders."

Cruisers Coming Home?

Those dozens of Belizeans who are stuck on the cruise ships where they worked might be the first to come home. The Prime Minister says they may be accepted later this month - if the cruise lines foot the bill for their local quarantine:

Jules Vasquez, reporter
"We have receive reports that at least one of the cruise lines Carnival I believe will be going to different ports in the region to drop off employees at those countries. Is this something the government is aware of that any ship may be heading into Belizean waters for any such purpose?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"In terms of the cruise ships we have indeed received 2 requests; one from Carnival and one from Royal Caribbean cruise lines for the repatriation of Belizean crew members with respect to both companies. I think Carnival is asking is they could be allowed to bring back these Belizeans on the 19th of this month and Royal Caribbean is asking for the 23rd of this month. So we are prepared to allow them to bring back the Belizean crew on condition that they will pay for the mandatory quarantining of those crew members. So we are not prepared to say to Carnival or Royal Caribbean cruise lines that you can come on the dates you've asked for with the expectation that government will pay for the quarantining of the crew members. If we said to them you are prepared to pay for that quarantining then we can in fact, we can make arrangements with private hotels and guest houses so that we can designate those individual private guest houses and hotels official quarantine facilities, because they can be ready far quicker than we can be with the public quarantine facilities if the 2 cruise lines are prepared to pay."

Channel 7