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Specials and Events
Last night's TV news on Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVETV, PGTV, Reef TV, KREM, and CTV 3. Also with the most recent Open Your Eyes, Belize Now, Talk Ah Di Town, and other specials.
The San Pedro Sun
Anna Herrera remanded for firearm offences
23-year-old Anna Herrera was remanded to the Belize Central Prison for the charges of possession of firearm and ammunition without a gun license. On Thursday, March 19th she pleaded not guilty to the charges after being taken in front of Magistrate Khadeem Palmer in Belize City. But because of the nature of the offences, she was remanded until June 19, 2020.
According to an official report, Herrera, a Chef of the San Mateo Sub-division in San Pedro Town was aboard a passenger bus in Hattieville, when police conducted a search.
Ministry of Natural Resources COVID- 19 Risk Mitigation and Response Actions
In the interest of public health and safety and due to circumstances regarding COVID-19, the Ministry hereby informs the public of the following: All offices countrywide will be closed to the public for tomorrow, Friday, March 20, 2020. A notice will be issued to inform of when offices will reopen. Effective immediately, Heads of Department and Sections will only attend to the public by appointments. To schedule an appointment, please contact the customer service section at (501)828-5028.
Water taxi from Chetumal, Mexico turned away at San Pedro Terminal
On Saturday, March 14th, a San Pedro Belize Express water taxi vessel traveling from Chetumal Mexico, was denied permission to dock at the International Boat Terminal in San Pedro Town. The vessel was reportedly bringing 50 passengers, mostly Europeans, including three Belizeans. Some of the passengers were suspected of being infected with Coronavirus. The vessel remained anchored on the lagoon side while guarded by the Belize Coast Guard. The initial plan was for the passengers to overnight on the boat and then return to Chetumal. Because of the limited amenities on the boat, the vessel was escorted back to Chetumal, where Mexican authorities awaited.
Placencia Airstrip to close temporarily for renovations
On Monday, March 16th, Tropic Air released plans to close the Placencia airstrip for renovations temporarily. The closure will take effect from May 1, 2020, to September 30th. During the closure, the runway will undergo revamping, lengthening, widening, and installing of runway lighting. Tropic Air also released a statement on what changes will be implemented during the airstrip’s closure period.
San Pedro Town braces for COVID-19; holiday and special events cancelled
Authorities at the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) announced on Tuesday, March 17th via a press release that specific measures will be implemented to ensure the safety of residents from the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The island’s primary industry, tourism, is also feeling severe effects with hoteliers, restaurants, and tour operators reporting many cancellations and people laid off. Mayor Daniel Guerrero called on islanders to stay calm amidst the announcement of the cancellation of large festivals on the island while discussing ways how the authorities can assist those most affected.
Washington University Students Participate In Health Campaign
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the newly formed Student Government Association at the Washington University of Health and Science participated in an outreach program to educate the community about the Novel Corona Virus. This activity was organized by the Ministry of Health of Belize and was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Javier Canul (Surveillance Officer of the Island) and Ms. Christina Sanchez (Public Health Inspector).
More than 70 students from the school went out to spread awareness about the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19), making it a huge success. Students were placed into groups and were sent into different neighborhoods to spread knowledge on how to prevent this new pandemic that has caused fatalities around the world.
Various Belizean Sources
Photo of the new House of Culture in Belize City
From about 1998 to about 2015 the HOC was housed there. One idea was to let the house continue to be a museum and HOC. It was later decided that having both in house would not be a good idea because you could not have a museum that is normally quite in one room and people dancing and playing loud music in the next. The building is 206 years old. So, it was decided to build a separate building for the HOC and in that building you could play music and dance as much as you want without disturbing anyone.
Tropic Air Route Suspensions & Cargo Operations Change
Due to the extraordinary circumstances being brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tropic Air will have to suspend all flights to Orange Walk (Tower Hill) with immediate effect. This is in addition to the suspension of flights to Roatan, Honduras and Flores, Guatemala that were announced earlier this week, and were a result of those nations closing their borders.
Cargo service to all stations, including package pick up and drop off, has also been amended. Cargo will now be available Monday to Saturday, until further notice.
Belize Declares National Hand Washing Day March 25, 2020
San Pedro High School, Belize students practicing good hygiene.
Belize Living Heritage Website
In lieu of the COVID-19 outbreak, we encourage the use of online learning resources to keep children at home engaged and learning. Check out the Belize Living Heritage Website to learn more about activities to stimulate learning. The Belize Living Heritage website is dedicated to promoting the diversity of all the cultural expressions and knowledge that make us uniquely Belizean.
Belizean communities are diverse and dynamic, and so are the customs, traditions and beliefs that we practice as individuals, families, organizations, and groups.
Our hope is that this educational platform will contribute to safeguarding the diverse cultural landscape that has come to characterize our people, our communities and our country.
You are welcome to explore, to engage and to contribute to this platform and make our Belize Living Heritage known to all citizens and the world.
BTIA Supporting Tourism Stakeholders as a Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The BTIA Board of Directors held a meeting on March 19, 2020, to discuss the current situation that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how best to continue serving our membership during this time of crisis.
Representatives of the Social Security Board (SSB) including Mrs. Debbie Ruiz, Acting CEO, and Mrs. Chandra Nisbet-Cansino, General Manager - Corporate Customer Relations Services, met with the BTIA Board to share information and precautionary measures pertaining to COVID-19. The following key points were shared by the SSB representatives:
FERRY CLOSURE - NOTICE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC
The Ministry of Works would like to announce that the LAGUNA SECA Ferry will be closed on Saturday, March 21st from 8:00 A.M. to Monday, March 23rd at 5:00 P.M.
The objective is to do urgent repairs to the structure and also to take advantage to address minor issues that the ferry requires.
Apologies to any inconveniences caused by this situation, but repairs are necessary to have this ferry back to safety standards, as it will bring much relief to motorists that use the ferry on a daily basis.
Ministry of Works
The hammock bridge is down in Santa Familia Village. A tree got it
We would like to inform all our villagers that a tree fell on the hammock bridge (Branch Mouth bridge connecting San Ignacio/Santa Elena to Santa Familia Village). If you know of someone travelling through there this morning,do check if him/her is fine. We will do our best to have it fixed as soon as possible.
Notice - postponement of Taste of Belize
In compliance with Government's advisory to limit social gatherings with the aim to mitigate the impact and spread of COVID-19, the Belize Tourism Board hereby informs the general public that it has decided to postpone its signature event TASTE OF BELIZE which was scheduled for May 16th, 2020.
The BTB apologizes for any inconvenience caused. We will advise you of the new date once it has been determined.
If you have any questions or concerns, kindly contact us via Tel 227-2420 or email at pr©belizetourismboard.org
The works continue at the Yarborough Green
Here are some photos of what has been accomplished so far.
The photos will show the football field, the police booth, perimeter pedestrian walkways, concrete benches, bleachers for the football field, male and female restrooms, lighting, and an area for track and field.
Caye Caulker RC School Home Based Learning
The Caye Caulker RC School announces that they will use WhatsApp as its home based learning plan to provide meaningful engagement for the students of Caye Caulker R C School.
Department of Transport COVID-19 Overcrowding rules
1. The public is advised to report over-crowding of public transportation, including buses, busitos, “dalla vans”, taxis, and water taxis. Report all cases to 610-8163.
2. Daily commuters are encouraged to take alternative buses in the morning and evening to avoid travel during rush hours. Employers are encouraged to be flexible with working hours to accommodate their staff as this situation continues to evolve.
3. The public is advised with immediate effect that commuters are required to board and exit buses in an orderly fashion. Note that the peak hours for workers are at 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m...
SPTC working on the streets of the Escalante Sub-Division
Despite being busy with COVID-19 preventative measures, the San Pedro Town Council is still working hard with its daily tasks. Early this week, our team was busy working on the streets of the Escalante Sub-Division.
Ministry of Natural Resources COVID- 19 Risk Mitigation and Response Actions
In the interest of public health and safety and due to circumstances regarding COVID-19, the Ministry hereby informs the public of the following:
• All offices countrywide will be closed to the public for tomorrow, Friday, March 20, 2020. A notice will be issued to inform of when offices will reopen.
• Effective immediately, Heads of Department and Sections will only attend to the public by appointments. To schedule an appointment, please contact the customer service section at (501)828-5028.
Public Transportation Protocol for COVID-19
The Department of Transport has been working closely with the Ministry of Health to address the challenges of COVID-19 in order to safeguard and protect the health of the public.
The following protocols have been put in place by the Department of Transport:
1. The public is advised to report over-crowding of public transportation, including buses, busitos, “dalla vans”, taxis, and water taxis. Report all cases to 610-8163.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Clarifies Travel of Guatemalans from Belize
It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that misinformation is being circulated concerning the entry, transit and exit of Guatemalan nationals to and from Belize.
The Embassy of Guatemala in Belize has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that a few Guatemalan nationals are being repatriated to Guatemala with transit through Belize. In doing so, the Embassy has coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Ministry responsible for Immigration. The Ministry further confirms that H.E. Georges de la Roche, the Ambassador for Guatemala to Belize, has fully respected all pertinent regulations including the most recent travel advisory, which does not prohibit the entry of Guatemalan nationals into Belize.
Advice to Shipping Community on COVID-19
The Belize Port Authority announced that a decision has been taken by the government of Belize to close off border entry points in an attempt to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic All maritime traffic is prohibited from entering into Belize, with some exceptions.
Closure of Daycare Centers
The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation advises the public that effective Saturday, March 21st, 2020 all daycares will suspend operations until Monday, April 20th, 2020 when schools are scheduled to reopen.
This decision is under the advice of the Ministry of Health and in line with the school closures announced by the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, and Culture to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Facilities in which children congregate such as schools and daycares can be particularly fertile places for the spread of contagious illnesses, with babies and toddlers especially susceptible to the spread of infectious diseases.
Temporary schedule for San Pedro Belize Express water taxi, beginning Sunday March 22
Groceries Delivered to Deserving Members of Caye Caulker Community
In continuation of Women's month, Sergeant Avila along with the women of the CCPD as well as members of the CCBTIA were active this morning in delivering hampers with groceries to deserving members of the community.
This was indeed a wonderful initiative very well accepted by the recipients as the hampers will come in handy especially in this sensitive time. We once again thank Sergeant Avila and all the entities involved for working hand in hand for the people of our island.
Ministry of Natural Resources Announcement
In the interest of public health and safety regarding COVID-19, the Ministry of Natural Resources has informed the public of the following:
All offices countrywide will be closed to the public for tomorrow, Friday, March 20, 2020. A notice will be issued to inform of when offices will reopen.
Effective immediately, Heads of Department and Sections will only attend to the public by appointments. To schedule an appointment, please contact the customer service section at (501)828-5028.
The Ministry continues to develop its capacity to provide online services and therefore encourages customers to visit the Ministry’s website to access these services.
For persons who wish to submit an application to the National Hydrological Service or the Mining Unit, the forms can be retrieved from the Ministry’s website at http://naturalresources.gov.bz/ or the Ministry’s Facebook page, and can be emailed using the respective email addresses below.
Petition: Cancel Utility Payments for Belizean Households
COVID 19 is now a pandemic that has resulted in the loss of employment for many people. Many of these people were already in low paying positions and facing economic hardships. Families will now have to be at home for all or most of the day especially during this warm time. This will result in increase in extremely important utilities such as electricity, water and internet. The citizens are calling for the Government of Belize to cancel (changed base on comments by public) the cost of utilities especially to households and those that will be affected the most. We are asking that you look at people below a pay scale, single and poor households and those employees in certain industries that will be affected by the shut down.
COROZAL FREE ZONE BOARD MAKES CLARIFICATION
In a release today, the Executive Chairman of the CFZ stated that as a result of on-going queries and misinformation in relation to coronavirus and activities of the Corozal Free Zone advises the following:
1. The Corozal Free Zone Administration continues to remain keenly abreast of the Government of Belize advisories on cross-border requirements for the movement of nationals and others traveling from certain countries of concern.
Ministry of Health Advisory #11 dated Sunday, 15th March, 2020 (attached) specified that at that date , those countries are China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Europe. Consequently, nationals of those countries, Belizeans and naturalized Belizeans traveling from those countries will not be allowed entry into the CFZ . The CFZ staff continues to monitor visitors, employers and employees to ensure the safety of everyone who works in the Zone.
The San Ignacio & Santa Elena House of Culture -NICH will be closing
Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Belmopan, Belize
All travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Philip Goldson International Airport in Belize City is currently open however US airlines that provide service are curtailing or cancelling flights in and out of Belize. Below are the customer service numbers and websites to contact major airlines with flights from Belize to the United States.
• American Airlines: AA has announced they will cancel all flights in/out of Belize as of March 26, 2020
o 1 800-433-7300 or 1 800-633-3711
• Delta Airlines: Delta has announced they will only provide one flight per day in/out of Belize as of April 1, 2020
o 1 800-221-1212
• Southwest Airlines:
o 1 800-435-9792
• United Airlines: UA has announced they will only provide one flight per day in/out of Belize as of April 1, 2020
o 1 800-864-8331
Paradise Theater playing this weekend
Birds of Prey, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Invisible Man
Many Versions to The Western Border Situation
Social media went wild today when a leaked voice note from Ambassador Said Badi Guerra went viral. It tells the story of how two Guatemalan residents who may be COVID-infected - and are Canadian nationals - used the Belize Airport to get back to Guatemala.
Our information is that they arrived at the PGIA at 11:00 am, and with the facilitation of the Guatemalan Embassy in Belize, were supposed to be taken straight over the Melchor. Even though that border is closed - they are still letting nationals and residents in.
Guerra explains in his voice note how the deal went down and how it went wrong - followed by the Ministry of Health's version given this morning:
Minister and CEO Temper Ambassador Said's Scare
And while that is an issue, going back to the conflicting accounts of Guerra and Manzanero, there are two different versions of the same story, and so we followed up with Ambassador Badi-Guerra's ministerial boss, Wilfred Elrington. After today's very brief budget debate in Belmopan, we asked him about it, and he candidly said that he had no information about the incident:
Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Minister of Foreign Affairs: "Let me be very candid and tell you that I don't have the details on any of that, I don't have the details on any of that but I can you promise you that I will get it and then you contact me tomorrow and I'll give you what I know."
Testing Stepped Up In Belize
And while that story caused a buzz this morning, the real news was at the Press Office in Belmopan where the Ministry of Health's top experts gave the latest update on the state of testing, readiness and response to COVID-19.
It was their regular briefing on all things Coronavirus, called "Ask the Experts". The Director of Health Services pointed to the fact that since El Salvador and Nicaragua last night confirmed their first cases - Belize stands alone in Central America, and on the American mainland as having no positive tests for COVID-19.
He says they have stepped up testing:
American Airlines Will Suspend Flights to Belize
And while those test kits are coming, there's not going to be much else coming in. That is because American Airlines, the US carrier with the most flights to Belize has announced that it will suspend all services effective next Thursday. It signals something very close to a death knell for tourism interests and employees, but, right now, it's the reality all over the world.
Presently, Belize has closed all ports of entry except the northern border with Mexico and the PGIA, and flights are only trickling in there. Manzanero spoke about shutting down air travel, while the Director of Immigration spoke about the protocol for Belizeans coming home - even those who may have flu-like symptoms:..
Blocking Illegal Border Crossings
So while home is still the place that when you go there, they have to let you in,
Baptist-Estrada made it clear: don't - under any circumstances - enter Belize through an illegal border crossing. That's where El Salvador's first case came from: someone entering the country from Italy through an illegal point of entry.
Baptist-Estrada said those have to be shut down:
House Speaker Sets Tone, Parliament Takes COVID-19 Seriously
And when that "Ask the Experts" session finished at a few minutes to ten in the Government Press Office - which is on the ground floor of the National Assembly Building, attention shifted to the chamber upstairs where the House of Representatives met for the annual budget debate. It's usually a two day marathon of malice, full of self proclamation on one side, and fault-finding on the other, when slings and arrows are hurled in wholesale volume. But, a debate in a time of Corona is a different thing altogether. There was really no debate, which we'll tell you about shortly.
PM Takes Pay Cut In As COVID Consideration
Shortly after acknowledging the Speaker's concerns that the Area Reps were violating the social distancing best-practices with this House Meeting, the Prime Minister jumped straight into the important House business that prompted the sitting. His only extended remarks for the day was an announcement that he and the other ministers of government are taking a pay cut. He added that these deducted salaries would become part of the 25 million-dollar relief fund that is being set up for the tourism stakeholders who are hurting because all international travel around the world has stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Suspends Debate Out Of COVID Concern
So, we turn now to today's budget debate in the House of Representatives that wasn't really a budget debate.
Both the Barrow Administration and the Opposition PUP have decided to cooperate and pass the General Revenue Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2020/2021 without any drama. This same Bill allowed the Government to seek parliamentary approval to borrow those 25 million dollars in relief funds that the Prime Minister has promised to the tourism stakeholders, while the global economy melts under COVID-19.
As we told you, there is usually a lot of political mudslinging at budget debates. But it was decided that for this debate, only Opposition Leader John Briceno would give his presentation and that there would be no response or rebuttal from the Government's side.
House Still Had Legislative Business
Other important housekeeping business that was addressed at today's meeting included the passing of the Treasury Amendment Bill of 2020 and the Supreme Court of Judicature Amendment Bill of 2020.
The Treasury bill will allow for treasury notes to mature in 20 years, instead of its past 10-year maturity rate.
The Supreme Court of Judicature Amendment Bill will allow, among other things, for the establishment of the Court to Prison Video live link, and it will also allow for the Chief Justice to make practiced directions for the court instances of public interest and national security. You'll remember that the court has suspended all cases and hearings for several days now.
Here's what the Prime Minister had to briefly say about these two bills when he introduced them today:
Guat Embassy Says Their Citizens Can Enter & Trasnit Belize
At the top of the news, you heard all sides of the big flap at the Western border after two Guatemalan residents were passed from the airport to Benque Viejo under circumstances which have bene questioned.
Well, coming into our newsroom just a few minutes ago is the account of the Guatemalan Embassy in Belize. They say that the Phillip Goldson International has no restrictions on the entry of Guatemalans who wish to return and be repatriated to Guatemala.
Will Omar Be The UDP Star?
And then there were three Cayo North's Omar Figueroa has submitted his name as a candidate for UDP Leader. He did so this morning, joining Patrick Faber who put in his name on Monday, and John Saldivar who did the same on Tuesday. Now, the expectation was that Figueroa would put in his name and run unopposed as a consensus candidate, since the party had indicated to both Faber and Saldivar that they should stand down after the debacle of the February convention.
Justice Michelle Arana Elevated, First Woman Acting CJ
For the first time in Belize's history, the acting Chief Justice is expected to be a woman. She is Justice Michelle Arana who is expected to take over, as former CJ Kenneth Benjamin reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 today. Arana - who has been a Supreme Court judge since 2006 - is expected to take over as acting CJ, because she is the most senior judge on the bench. Her appointment would most likely be temporary until a new permanent Chief Justice can be found.
Police Change Strategy: Less Checkpoints More Patrols
Close to one hundred persons are detained including those who have been brought in from out district as the southside state of emergency finishes its second day.
Police have compiled a list of suspected gang members who they intend to pursue and detain for 30 days, in the first instance, and very likely for as many as sixty days.
It's the strategy of a state of emergency in 8 zones of Belize city which was declared yesterday in response to 48 hours that saw 6 persons killed including two children and a mother.
COMPOL Wants Cops Off Their Cell Phones
And while they will have fewer fixed checkpoints, they also intend to have fewer policemen sleeping on the job, or racking up screentime on their cell phones.
The commissioner says that with all the boots on the ground many times they have their hands on their cell phones, and that has got to stop.
And A Curfew For Kids
And while the cops will have to put down those cellphones; children will have to stay inside. A part of this state of emergency is a curfew for minors from 8 pm to 6 pm.
The commissioner and attorney general explained the rules for minors at night.
Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police:
"The regulation does call for a curfew for minors and as you know that we still have the families and children protection..."
Babylon the Bandit?
And while those measures are supposedly for community safety, one woman we spoke to who lost her boyfriend to gun violence takes a different view. She says that for those who live in the affected areas, this massive show of state-sanctioned force means very little in real terms for communities that have been systematically and structurally excluded.
Other Areas Put On Notice
And while he says he's loved in those neighborhoods, the commissioner put other Belize city blocks on notice, threatening to extend his department's footprint into other areas if gang related violence continues to spike.
Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police:
"While we have the state of emergency in Belize City and there are some areas that are not declared..."
Wanted Posters In Circulation
And in the areas currently under the State of emergency Crime stoppers has issued wanted posters for a number of murder suspects and rewards for information leading to their apprehension.
A $2,000 dollar reward is being offered for information in the murders of Phillip Leslie, Shakira White, Dominque Rhamdas, Kia Herbert, and Derrick King.
Commissioner Williams said that they will aggressively circulate posters of crimes for which these persons are wanted.
Murders Caused By Cycle of Retaliation?
And while a lot of the suspects are known criminals, many are asking what has been behind this weeks explosive spate of killings, which has seen an extraordinary number innocent persons, and two children killed inside their homes. The commissioner said that it was mostly retaliation.
"What the public wants to know is if these are isolated or targeted attacks gone wrong or are they simply a cycle of retaliation that keeps playing out with indiscriminate acts of wanton violence."
COMPOL Scolds The Judiciary
And while no one has been arrested for any of those crimes, yet. The commissioner had a significant public complaint to make about the judiciary. Now, this is not a line that law enforcement usually crosses since the judiciary is strictly independent and protected from reckless criticism by contempt laws.
But, yesterday, the commissioner went out of his way to publicly castigate magistrates who he believes are too lenient with persons convicted of being a gang member.
Post Mortem Examinations Closed to Families
All three reports have been published in full on the Ministry of National Security website.
One interesting side-note that came out of yesterday's press conference was that the families of the soldiers were not allowed to view the bodies or witness the post mortem. Captain Bennett told us why:
Calling All Hospitality Industry Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world and Belize's economy has taken a major hit to its vital tourist industry. Tonight Ted Tejada, President of the Belize Hotel Association is reporting that hotel occupancy is down to between 5 and 10%. That's a projection that's bound to get much worse as today the United States, Belize primary tourist market, sent out an advisory for U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to COVID-19.
So, may hotels are facing the prospect of massive layoffs or even temporary shutdowns, until the market rebounds - and who knows when that is.
Handwashing, Both Art And Science
Belize remains free of any confirmed cases on COVID-19 but keeping it that way is an immense challenge. And in preparing for the eventuality of fighting the virus, the public has been told time and time again that handwashing is the single most important preventative measure.
That's why the Ministry of Education and its partners designated today, as National Handwashing Awareness day.
Cops: Woman Had A Gun On Bus
Anna Herrera, a 23-year-old mother from San Pedro Town, is at the Belize Central Prison tonight. That's after she was caught by police trying to transport a loaded handgun on a bus.
Police say that they busted her today when they stopped a passenger bus in Hattieville. The officers searched the bus for illegal drugs and firearms, and that's when they found Herrera's bag.
Dept of Transport Scolds Buses
And, speaking of buses, COVID-19 may be forcing Belize's Department of transport to finally treat commuters like human beings.
A press release from the Department of Transport, urges the public to report over-crowding of buses, busitos, "dalla vans", taxis, and water taxis. The number to call is 610-8163.
Indeed, with public gatherings limited to 100 persons, and social distancing a national priority - bus transport round counter to all that. We know too well about busses often cramming almost 10o persons, in standees and seated commuters unto crowded runs, it could be an incubator for COVID-19.