My Fellow Belizeans,

Very early on this Good Friday morning, we recorded our second COVID-19 related death. I hereby offer my sincere condolences to the bereaved family.

A press release has given a timeline of the events that culminated in the patientís passing. Also, Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero has, on television, provided further details of patient #10ís backstory. In consequence, you know that this particular case is accompanied by some nightmarish circumstances as to the exposure of many persons to the patient before he died. In the result, the overall picture clearly demonstrates the possibility of widespread transmission of the virus. To try to contain this possibility, we must act now. The science, the experts, and the experience of other countries, all tell us that there is only one way to do this. To the maximum extent practicable, we must restrict movement and put a lid on contact. In other words, the time has now come to take the ultimate step for which we have been preparing. I, therefore, after consultation with the National Oversight Committee, announce that starting from tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. the entire country of Belize will be placed under quarantine. This will last for 14 days in the first instance, but may, of course, be extended. During that period, a thoroughgoing mapping and testing exercise will be undertaken, starting with the family of, and all the known health care providers that attended to, patient #10.

What we put in place at the time of the Cayo quarantine will now apply countrywide. Accordingly, throughout the nation, we will be strictly confined to the following activities: procuring food and medicine, fuel, and finance. Thus, grocery shops and pharmacies will be open during reduced hours; fuel stations will also operate during reduced hours; and banks, credit unions, and other lending institutions only from 8:00 a.m. to noon.

Naturally, public bus transportation will cease across the land.

Of course, to preserve the food supply chains, farms and farmers will continue to produce.

Additionally, the movement of essential workers must be provided for and Government will make special arrangements for this.

My Fellow Belizeans: we are acutely aware of the additional havoc to be wreaked on the economy by this national quarantine. Preserving health and saving lives are the priority, though. We can, and will, later resurrect the economy. But what we are doing now to protect our people cannot wait a moment longer.

I am recording this message from home because my family and I are in isolation. It has turned out that a police officer assigned to our home is a nephew of the deceased. We are not sure if he had recent contact with his uncle. But until his test results come back, isolation is the safest course for all individuals living and working at my residence.

I want to expand a little on that safety note.

We all must follow the rules of the quarantine. It is also time, I believe, for us to wear our masks and gloves whenever we have to move about to procure essentials. It naturally goes without saying that all of the establishments remaining open should provide those masks and gloves to their employees.

I close on notes of assurance. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that it has enough of the PPEs and testing kits for the current circumstances. More is on the way so that our frontline workers, to all of whom I pay heartfelt tribute, will be properly enabled to see us through the crisis.

Finally, the unemployment relief that started yesterday will be in full swing as from next week; and by then, money for the food assistance program will also be in hand.

My Fellow Belizeans: these are the most difficult of times. But Easter, Christ risen, and Godís eternal love guarantee that we shall overcome.