10am Scheduled Virtual Press Conference with PM Today is a milestone for the country- 17th day with no new cases State of Emergency with new regulations extended: 60 days unless sooner revoked by Parliament
No way we can declare “Mission Accomplished” - more of an uneasy truce We must remain ready for possibility of 2nd wave and a return to more “draconian measures”
May 1st we will re-start “INTERNAL business and economic activity” OPEN: Government offices, lawyers, real estate, accountant, carpenters, electricians, wholesalers and retailers Call centers, hotels if they choose to cater to Belizean clients Beauty salons and barbershops by appointment (one at a time) - no spas
Social distancing in effect, face masks in effect Increasing penalties, ESPECIALLY for border crossings First time convicted, 3 months prison
We are waiting for Internationally approved reliable rapid response tests before we can open Tourism
Followed by an update from Ministry of Health
Talking about procurement of equipment now - prices at least 6000% higher from two months ago. For example, masks were .04 cents now 74 cents.
We have 5300 tests in country now. Full SI (Statuatory Instrument to be outlines by AG this afternoon.
Update to Statutory Instrument No. 65 – Additional Businesses Allowed to Operate
Subsequent to the appearance of the Attorney General Hon. Michael Peyrefitte on the Government Press Office’s “Ask the Experts” webcast today, April 30th, consideration was given to certain businesses to operate under Statutory Instrument No. 65 of 2020.
Laundromats will be allowed to operate as of May 1, 2020, for drop-off/pick-up services only during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Insurance companies are also now included and can operate as of May 1, 2020, during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
State of Emergency extension - changes to the latest Statutory Instrument
There have been changes to the latest Statutory Instrument to enforce new regulations and the extension of the State of Emergency. Audrey Matura, Attorney-at-Law unpacked the regulations and what is expected of families and businesses.
"Substantial Easing" Of COVID Measures
Again, tonight, there are no new confirmed cases of COVID 19 in Belize, making it 18 days since a positive sample was taken.
And that's why tomorrow, the national state of emergency responding to COVID enters a new phase. In a two hour press conference this morning, the Prime Minister characterised it as "substantial easing" of the measures which we have all been living with for much of the past month:..
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister "There is a substantial easing that the new regime will bring....agreement between both oversight. There is a substantial easing that the new regime will bring. I am also pleased to be able to say that the new measures are the product of an agreement between both the National Oversight Committee and the Cabinet of Belize. Before I go any further, I must make one thing clear. There is no way that, in those famous words of President Bush, that we can declare "mission accomplished". We see what is to happen now as a breathing space, a somewhat uneasy truce. We will use the opportunity to plan, to prepare for the distinct possibility of a second wave of cases. If that hits, we ask our people to be ready to do it all over again, including returning to the most draconian of lockdowns the most draconian of lockdowns."
Re-Starting The Economy, With Caution
But, no lockdown right now. While the curfew does remain in effect, the economy is being re-started, and businesses allowed to re-open. Yes, it won't be the same. Strict social distancing has to observed - and everyone has to wear a mask inside those businesses - and this time it's a requirement by law, not an option.
The Prime Minister listed the businesses that will be able to open on Saturday, after the labour day holiday:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister "We therefore seize the opportunity to restart internal to the maximum degree. We, therefore, seize the opportunity to restart, to the maximum degree possible in the circumstances, internal business and economic activity. Accordingly, under the new SI, all government departments and all statutory bodies will reopen on Monday, May 4th. We have, naturally, added to the list of approved private sector businesses also permitted to operate; and those add-ons can actually begin on Saturday, May 2nd - after the Labour Day holiday - if they normally employ Saturday opening hours. Lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers, are some examples of private sector, professional service providers that are now on the approved list. There is, as well, a category compendiously described as local manufacturers, under which our carpenters, building contractors, plumbers, electricians, and so on, will also be able to operate. The wholesalers and retailers generally are being freed up, and even call centers can reopen, particularly for training purposes. Belize call center services are increasingly in demand as a result of the pandemic, and the centers can take on well over a thousand new hires if training is allowed. Very, very significant for the economy. Hotels will also now reopen, if they so choose, to cater to a Belizean clientele. Their restaurants will be limited, though, to providing room service and take-out meals. As a result of all this, the general restriction on movement is being lifted to the extent that it will now permit the public to attend at the various government and private businesses for such services as they require, in addition to the purchase of supplies and essential needs. And in one more concession, beauty salons and barbershops can also resume operations, although, only by appointment basis, dealing with one customer at a time is being lifted by appointment basis dealing with one customer at a time."
Relaxation of Measures is Not For Recreation
And so while you can finally go get that trim - by appointment only - you can't go down by the river. The bottom line is that social interaction is being very strongly discouraged - and the PM said this relaxing of regulations is no open invitation to recreation:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister "There is no free for all and there are still the restrictions in place that would prohibit bathing in rivers, going on that sort of an activity for recreational purposes. That there will be an effort at stepping up surveillance and monitoring is a given but Belizeans also have to do their part. Lord man, I don't know what more is necessary in terms of what people see on their television screens everyday, to convince them that this is an absolutely deadly enemy. The authorities are doing their part and I repeat that there are very many Belizeans who are cooperating, there are very many Belizeans who take this thing seriously. I would go so far as to say the majority is taking this seriously. But for those who don't, please get with the program."
Business Tourism Only
But, can you still be with the program, while being a tourist in your own country?
It's a kind of grey area since the government is trying to direct some business to hotels who have no tourists coming in.
The Prime Minister explained this balancing act:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister "And since we are saying that anybody can move across district lines in order to attend or in order to seek the services that are available, that are legitimate- local tourism services are available and are legitimate- then it must mean that indeed, if people want to travel to San Pedro, if Minister Heredia and Mayor Guerrero will permit, they should be free to do so. That's why we said the restaurants can't open for in-restaurant dining. People will have to settle for a room service and hotels will have to be very careful with the question of the use of the pool. But in principle, the answer is yes as to whether Belizeans will be able to in fact travel across district lines to patronize, if you will, the hotels that are now being allowed to reopen."
Later on in the day, the Attorney General put even stricter qualifications on this local tourism travel. And we'll have his remarks for you in our next segment.
Regular Tourism Not Coming Back Now
But, many resorts and hotels will be happy for any kind of business, because right now occupancy is at zero - and it looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. The Prime Minister said that the airport will be the last thing to open:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister "Unfortunately, tourism is the last in terms of the easing of the restrictions against the entry of tourists into Belize; that comes last. We are hopeful, that as Dr. Gough reiterated, that there can soon be an acceptable rapid test that would then allow us to administer the test to every visitor that is coming to Belize. Short of that, it is going to be a while. I don't see us reopening the airport any time soon and our best bet for an accelerated opening is the certification, the approval of the rapid tests. Look, it will take a long time for us to be able to recover to any satisfactory degree. Remember that the biggest contributor to our economy is tourism and we certainly are not at a point where we can reopen the tourism sector. So, what we are doing will provide some additional flow to the trickle of revenues that government is getting, to the trickle of income that private sector businesses are realizing but every little bit helps. We have to make a start at some point and that is what we are doing now."
Basically, School's Out For Summer
And while the airport will not be opening until standardised quick tests are available, schools also look like they will not be opening very soon.
The Prime Minister said right now it is not a primary consideration:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister "I don't see school reopening until the start of the new school year which is August or something like that. That could change but my personal opinion is that the rest of this school year is shut."
Strict Regs For Public Buses
So, if you can't go to Mexico - can you travel within Belize? Well it's limited primarily to persons who are going to do business in other districts, and of course, persons who qualify as essential services.
And for those travelling on busses there are strict rules:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister "That is problematic. We debated long and hard, we thought of perhaps limiting the bus operators to making runs with no more than half of the seating capacity onboard. At the end, we spoke to Dr. Manza, and while it is not ideal, we came down on the side of saying, no the buses can run with full seating capacity, if they have to and subject to their passengers needing to wear masks, subject to everybody having to come off the bus at every stop so that the bus can be disinfected and so that they can sanitise, so that they can wash their hands and do whatever is subject to that and subject to. nobody being able to board a bus without having first purchased a ticket. So you'll have to line up, 6 feet a part, buy your ticket in the terminal and then you get on to the bus in an orderly fashion, waiting your turn. It is not as I understand it, what use to happen before where people just rush on the buses and then after the journey starts, the conductor comes to you to collect or to get your ticket. Some structure, some order is being brought to bear with respect to bus transportation but ultimately that in fact, if you go, if you are a 60 seater bus and you go with all 60 seats occupied, there is in fact a sitting together without a 6 feet space, that is the fact, we cannot get away from it. On the other hand, because we are opening up, it's just not possible to deprive people of the means of public transportation, so it's a calculated risk that we decided we would have to take."
Of course, in order to work, these measures have to be economically feasible for bus operators, and we understand they have been in meeting with the government up until late this evening.
The Continuing Curfew
At the top of the newscast, we showed you the Prime Minister's virtual press conference. He headlined it with announcement that Government is slightly relaxing some of the stricter rules of the State of Emergency, even though it has been extended for 2 more months.
This afternoon, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte made an appearance on the Ask the Experts webcast, to fill in the details, and give a bit more clarity on what is being allowed, and what isn't.
During his presentation, the AG began with a few of the rules that haven't changed much. Among the things that still remain are the children's curfew, and the 8 p.m. curfew for adults. Here's how he explained why those will remain, and why there has been a slight modification for the children's curfew, now that more businesses are being allowed to open:
Hon. Michael Peyfitte - Attorney General "There is still a curfew in place. When you wake up tomorrow, the curfew will kick in still at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, May 1st. The curfew remains from 8 at night until 5 the next morning, every night until June 30th. It remains unless you're a police officer, BDF, Coast Guard, front line healthcare provider. For the Government, if you are an immigration service, customs officer on-duty as I said - on-duty. If you are a policeman on duty, you're allowed to be on the street after 8 and before 5 in the morning. On duty, so not because you are a policeman means that you have the right to be out there at midnight. If you're out there at midnight - and it has happened - we have arrested a police officer or two for breaking curfew. Not because you are a police officer means that you can be out there. You have to be on duty. I want the Belizean people to remember that. We are still in the State of Emergency. We'll remain that way, and the curfew stays in place. Curfew for children remains in place, but it will be expanded for a reason I will get into later on in the discussion. Children will be allowed to be on the streets from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening. If you're under 16. Why we have extended it from 4 to 6, it's very simple. If we're allowing more people to work, then more chances people will have babysitting needs. So, if you get off of work at 4, you'll be given a chance to pick up your child between 4 and 6 and get that child off the street by 6 o'clock. The curfew for children will now be between 8 and 6. Now, don't forget that if you're with a child between 4 and 6, you better be coming from work or something. Not because you're allowed to be out there means that the police can't question you. What is this child doing here? If you are just gallivanting, you'll be committing and offense. You have to demonstrate clearly to the police officer that you have to have that child with you before 6 because you're either need to go perform an essential service, or you had to pick up that child from the babysitter to take him or her back home."
Mask Regulations Super Strict
Another group of rules that the Government is doubling down on is the strict adherence to social distancing. In particular, no person should be out of their houses without a mask, and if you are caught without one, you're risking a hefty fine or even jail time. That's right, masks are not optional! Here are the Attorney General's comments on that topic:
Hon. Michael Peyfitte - Attorney General "No matter what I tell you are the new relaxed rules, social distancing protocols must still be followed. Nothing I tell you allows for social distancing protocol to be violated, except in 2 instances, or let's just say 3 instances. We saw a picture from Corozal with a bunch of people gathering in a crowd there. That's illegal. You cannot do that. You still have to maintain social distancing protocols. You must remain 6 feet apart from each person. If I say nothing else, I say this. For the next 2 months, everybody who is in public. If you leave your house, you must leave with a mask on. You will not be allowed to be on the street or walk into any approved business if you don't have a mask on. So, if you don't have your mask on, and you're on the street, you'll be committing an offense. Ladies, because we're freeing it up a little bit more, it is now a requirement for every soul in this country. When you leave your house, you must, wear a mask. Listen, just always wear a mask. It doesn't matter what you're doing, wear a mask."
Dorian Pakeman - Director, Government Press Office "What is the penalty for not wearing a mask in public?"
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte "$5,000 or 2 years in jail."
Dorian Pakeman "Oh, so it's the same penalty as breaking curfew?"
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte "It's the same penalty. If you're caught without a mask, the penalty is $5,000 or 2 years in Jail."
Here's Which Businesses Will Open
From there, the Attorney General gave an overview of the different types of businesses that the Government is allowing to re-open under the State of the Emergency. That list is extensive, but here's an excerpt:
So, to go over it again, business owners and their employees are expected to observe social distancing practices. Everyone is required to wear masks while on the job, and businesses are being required to be strict with customers about the use of masks. The Attorney General says that no customer should be allowed to enter a business place without a mask, and if police catch someone without one on a particular premises, that person and the business place can be charged for the violation.
Also, customers must be directed to observe 6-feet distancing between each other and the employees of the company.
The Details On Hotel Stays
And at the top of the news, we showed you what Prime Minister Dean Barrow had to say about the special cases of hotels being allowed to re-open during the State of Emergency. Well, the Attorney General discussed hotels in a bit more detail, and he stressed that recreational or vacation use of the hotels isn't being encouraged. He said that the allowances for hotels were made on the premise that business persons may need to make use of these accommodations to get their jobs done. He also added that if you check into a hotel, you'll still have to stay indoors due to the regulations:
No Leisure Travel
So, it should strictly business at hotels, because, according to the AG, the government will continue to restrict inter-district travel. Very much like being outside of your homes during non-curfew hours, traveling between districts is being discouraged at this time, and if you must do so, it must be for a valid reason. Here's how the AG explained why that is the case:
Hon. Michael Peyfitte - Attorney General "If you are out in the street between 5 AM and 8 PM at night, 5 AM in the morning to 8 PM at night, you must be out to purchase essential needs. You must be attending for medical attention, there must be some sort of emergency, you must be an essential worker or an employee of an approved business. You must be a home health care provider of services to sick people, disabled or elderly persons or to children going to and from work. You must be a person obtaining a service of an approved business or office. In other words then, you still cannot go from Belize City to Belmopan for simply a casual reason. You are not allowed to go finally visit your relatives in Dangriga who you haven't seen in the past 6 weeks, that is still not allowed. If you're laving one district to go to the next district, you must be leaving for one of the purposes that I will read out. There are more purposes for you to leave but you must be leaving for one of those purposes."
And, you definitely can't travel even within your district to go to the casino! The Attorney General briefly spoke about closed businesses:
Hon. Michael Peyfitte - Attorney General "Closed, Casinos and gaming establishments are closed. Gymnasiums, sporting complex remain closed. Discotheques, bars, rum shops and night clubs remain close. You have to continue to at least for now, party virtually and online. I don't know what kind of party that but for now, that's the kind of party we have to have."
As we told you, the list of allowed business is extensive, and so, if you would like to verify if your enterprise qualifies, you can find the Statutory Instrument on it, which will be posted on the Government of Belize's website, as well as the Government Press Office's outlets.
ComPol Chester Williams shares clarity on motorcycles:
Some people were asking for clarity on Motorcycles. Here is your clarification, two persons from the same household can ride on a motorcycle. Remember the key word there is same household and not work place. Both persons however must wear a mask and a helmet.
Re: Update on the State of Emergency Measures
#542144 05/05/2004:58 AM05/05/2004:58 AM
Last week, the Attorney General said that there would be a daily assessment of the COVID-19 threat. He stressed that there was the possibility that the Government would be willing to lift more restrictions if the medical authorities were in agreement that the public health threat was decreasing.
Well after taking a close look at the big picture over the holiday weekend, the Government has decided to allow the domestic economy to restart to a certain degree. During today's edition of the Ask The Experts Webcast, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte returned to announce that the Governor-General has signed a new Statutory Instrument into law, which allows for the vast majority of businesses to re-open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.:
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Attorney General "Five in the morning until 7 at night, fuel stations, fuel depots, LPG supplier, LPG depots and LPG distributors, agro-processors, food manufacturers, factories and manufacturers of carbonated and other beverages including spirits, which is liquor and soft drinks, agricultural and aquaculture farms: shrimp farms, agricultural farms, fishing for livelihood and sustenance, but not including sport fishing and leisure fishing."
"Waste disposal and sanitation companies, and auxiliary personnel, productive sector industries personnel and auxiliary workers - which is the production of drinkable water and agricultural workers, markets for produce, fish, and meat, public transportation providers, construction and construction sites, local manufacturers like welders and carpenters and stuff like that, bakeries and tortilla factories. Those are the businesses that can open from 5 in the morning until 7 at night."
Today's amendment also allows the re-opening of other businesses, which will be allowed to operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here is the AG's comments on that:
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Attorney General "All other businesses that did not fall into that category that I just said can now open from 8 in the morning until 7 at night. I should be able to end the show right there, right. The businesses I mentioned when I listed them."
"Five to seven at night. All other businesses can now open from 8 in the morning until 7 at night. Is that clear, Dorian? You understand that. Now, schools remain closed, but school offices can now open to collect fees, applications for next year, or whatever administrative stuff they want to do. So, those can open if they choose to. But remember, just like a convenience store, but just like everything else, you must have on a mask. You must maintain social distancing of 6 feet apart from each person."
There is also a strict list of rules that are still being enforced under today's amended SI. As we told you earlier, the borders are still closed, if you enter or exit the country, you will face 3 months imprisonment in the first instance.
The 8 p.m. curfew for adults and the 6 p.m. children's curfew is still in effect.
Wearing face masks while in public is still being enforced, along with the stiff penalties for violating this rule. Social Distancing and staying 6 feet apart must still be observed. Inter-district travel remains restricted, and must not be done unless it is for work, or for some important reason that can be justified with proof. Also, no one should be swimming in the country's rivers or the sea.