Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow stated on Thursday, June 25th, via a virtual press conference that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain on funding, the plans for a full-service hospital on Ambergris Caye will remain on hold for an indefinite time.Prime Minister Barrow told The San Pedro Sun that the initial plans for an equipped medical facility on Ambergris Caye have been called off. “We had discussed several possibilities,” said Barrow. “There was a former tourism property that was no longer used for that purpose, and we talked about converting it into a hospital. We had approached the Taiwanese for funding and then came COVID-19.” Barrow said that the project would have involved a rehabilitation/refurbishing process, but the funding is not forthcoming at this time. Thus, the hospital idea will be on hold. The location of the former tourism property mentioned by the prime minister was not revealed, but it is believed to be north of San Pedro.

When the Philip Goldson International Airport opens on August 15th, and tourists start coming to the island, any person who becomes infected with COVID-19 will first be isolated and only transported off the island in severe cases. These persons will be required to stay at home or in their hotel while being monitored by health personnel. These health services will be available for both locals and visitors.

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What’s Up with COVID-19 Healthcare on La Isla Bonita?

As Belize gets ready to re-open to international tourism in August, there are many details still left to iron out. One of those concerns is regarding healthcare on Belize’s largest tourism destination of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The island doesn’t a hospital that can accommodate high numbers should there be an outbreak of the virus. The panel was asked about what is being done to ensure that there is something in place should locals or tourists fall ill. Here’s what they had to say.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“There are certainly, or the plan that we had for a full service hospital on Ambergris Caye has been scotched. We had discussed several possibilities. There was a former tourism property that was no longer being used for that purpose and we talked about converting it into a hospital and we had approached the Taiwanese for funding and then came COVID-19. So, there is no way that can be done now. In any event, it would have been a project that would have entailed some extended rehabilitation, refurbishment process. The funding is not now forthcoming and so that has to be put on hold. In terms of how tourists that come and that might develop symptoms, even though since Dr. Manza has explained about the incubation period – even though they may have tested negative at the airport, how we deal with those in terms of quarantine and in the event that they get seriously ill and have to be put into intensive care, perhaps either Dr. Manza or Dr. Gough can speak to that.”

Dr. George Gough, C.E.O., Ministry of Health

“So, one of the most critical parts of your questions would be looking at how we can get a positive patient asymptomatic to comply with isolation. That would be statistically they eighty-five percent – and then from the fifteen percent that get sick from the eighty-five percent that are asymptomatic, sorry, that is what I am trying to say. Of that fifteen percent, if we look at the global numbers again, we are looking at three to five percent that would require some form of critical care. So, I think the first part of the question is easier. We will be able to look for how they isolate first – combine that isolation with incubation period and retest them. Then secondly, your question is valid. We are presently working at a unit in Belmopan. So, I would want to think initially we would have to assume that responsibility for that three percent and then from there it would go in some form of cost recovery. So, I cannot tell you in detail yet we have a full solution for that. So, that is the work we have cut out for us for the next four to five weeks.”

Channel 5