The Phillip Goldson International airport re-opens on Thursday - after it was closed in late March- causing the shutdown of overnight tourism, and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in revenue to the industry and its service providers.
Well, now, 6 hard months later the airport will re-open on Thursday - and its a major multi agency event to get the tourists and the returning Belizeans through the airport. An hour ago on "Ask The Experts" - the Director of Health Services discussed the key areas of concerns - as his ministry leads a process that is definitely a work in progress:
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, DHS "As we know now the tourists will still be only accessing gold standard hotels which means that they are not going to able to go into the general stream of just coming and going. Belizeans, and I need to stress this, even though you are not going to be required to quarantine in hotel upon arrival, it is still going to be the staff at the airport that will be telling everybody that you should go and do at minimum 7-10 days of quarantine at home and the reason is very simple: even if you bring a negative PCR test you may have still been exposed enroute in coming to Belize. I need to also stress that there is a health app that's now been modified and it's been circulated from the last version towards the end of last week. You do need to download the app because that app is what will expedite your process at the airport once you arrive. If you don't have the health app upon arrival then you will have to be delayed a little bit in your paper work being processed, because you are going to be asked to fill in all the paper forms as you walk through the different processes at the airport. If you do not have the health app and have to download it or fill in the form, then that will be a delay in terms of walking you through the health swabbing booths and getting your results. So having the health app will expedite the process significantly. We are anticipating that with the full complement of staff at the airport, the lab techs would be able to process between 15-20 samples per hour, per lab technologist. So if there is 3-4 we anticipate it can be 60-80. At the end of day if you don't do your part of it, you are only going to be able what we are able to do. At the end of the day you would understand that we are doing a test. We cannot be rush through that process because we do not want to compromise the quality of any test result we give versus just trying to do a process to make sure everybody is whisked away from the airport rather quickly. Thursday there is one flight that's coming out og Miami, 77 people on average. On Friday we can anticipate a delay, there is one flight coming in with 77 people as well and our 15 minutes we have a flight that's bringing in close to 180 persons. So that on Friday we would anticipate getting more than 250 persons within a space of an hour and 15 minutes. Saturday it's about 220 people within an hour and fifteen minutes of each other and by Sunday that decreases to about 160 persons. Thursday it doesn't seem to be that bad, but then if we have 256 people arriving with nobody having downloaded the health app and nobody having a PCR result you can anticipate delays."
Protocols & Processes Fine-tuned for Reopening of P.G.I.A.
This Thursday, October first, the Philip Goldson International Airport officially reopens to international tourists. But there are still lingering concerns from tourism stakeholders on the protocols and the processes in place at the airport as well as mandatory quarantining for visitors as well as returning Belizeans. During today’s Ask the Experts webcast, Director of Health Services Doctor Marvin Manzanero shared the protocols to be observed. The delay for processing at the airport is dependent on the traveller and whether or not they comply with the requirements for entry into the country.
Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services
The tourists would still only be accessing gold star hotels, which means that they are not going to be able to go into the general stream of coming and going. Belizeans, and I need to stress this, even though you are not going to be required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival, it is still going to be the staff at the airport that will be telling everybody that you must or you should go and do, at minimum, seven to ten days of quarantine at home. And the reason is very simple. Even if you bring a negative PCR test, you may have still been exposed en route to coming to Belize. So people can appreciate that you can bring a potential exposure from whoever is visiting you and the people who are coming here to visit can also appreciate the reason why we are suggesting that you do elements of self-quarantine at home. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that you are avoiding exposure with your community, with your family, with your friends. So that will be the recommendation, blanket recommendation, we are making for everybody. I think we need to stress this because it is a common question that is coming to our hotlines. I know that the B.T.B. website and the infographic is being updated in a dynamic kind of way. We are also strongly recommending—you may not find it necessary in the infographic—that all Belizeans returning, if they can bring back a PCR test. The closer you can have that to when you board your plane, the better it is going to be for you and that would allow for a quicker processing of your situation at the airport. We are anticipating that with the full complement of staff at the airport, the lab techs will be able to process between fifteen to twenty samples per hour per lab technologist. So if there is three to four, we anticipate it can be sixty to eighty. As I said, if you bring your PCR result and you have your health app downloaded, that process can be completed in a much shorter period.”