New Covid Containment Regs Make For A Calm Christmas
The new COVID regulations laid out today will be with us for weeks, maybe more.
This morning, the Ministry of Health and Wellness hosted a long awaited press conference, rolling out the new SI that will come into effect on December 20 - deployed to quickly contain the fast increasing number of COVID cases and deaths.
And even though we say "new" SI, it's regulations are similar to previous ones under the Barrow Administration. Familiar regulations like curfews, mandatory face masks, and social distancing are still in place, along with other protocols like limited inter district travel, that the police and the Ministry will enforce with random spot checks.
Minister of Health, Michel Chebat, gave a brief overview of the new regulations.
Hon. Michel Chebat, Minister of Health and Wellness
"Starting on the 20th of December, the curfew being imposed will commence at 8pm and it will go to 5am. For minors, children under 16 years old, the curfew will begin at 6pm and that will last till 5am. The sale of liquor will be restricted from 6pm to 7am with the exception of those restaurants that are in hotels. There is now gonna be a penalty for persons who have tested positive and are not adhering to the mandatory quarantine. The penalty for not wearing a mask will continue, we are not introducing a restriction to public transportation where buses and water taxis will only be permitted to carry 50% of their seating capacity. In terms of businesses who violate and employees who violate these regulations, a $200 fine will be imposed on employees and on employers a $5,000 fine and a second violation by employers will result in their business being closed for a period of 7 days. We're also gonna be imposing a fine for those people who continue to have parties at their homes. Businesses are only gonna be allowed a 50% customer base which is gonna be based on their square footage. We're introducing a limit to non-essential travel, interdistrict travel from Corozal and Orange Walk districts. The concept behind limited this non-essential interdistrict movement is very simple in view of the fact that are unable to sustain the type of protracted nationwide limitation of movement of the nature a scope that we have seen in other countries, the localized interdistrict movement limitation instead seeks to attain a fall in the incidences and overall rate of transmission at the municipal and subnational levels."
Christmas Under Covid Will Look Like This
The Minister of Home Affairs used his presentation to explain the regulations in depth - Uncle Peyrefitte style, minus the one liners.
Musa began by explaining the basics - the curfew and the dreaded Christmas parties expected to occur.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth
"This curfew of 8pm excludes workers in the following professions: the security forces, customs and excise department, the department of immigration services, frontline healthcare providers with the Ministry of Health or any other essential worker issued a badge by the Minister of Home Affairs."
"The attorney general's ministry is currently drafting legislation that early in the new year we will be presenting so that police officers can issue tickets so that is not in place yet so you will still be detained, you will still be taken to the police station, processed, and you will still need to go to court at least until that law is passed."
"No type of private gathering is allowed, you cannot organize host or attend private gathering. 10 people maximum so every now and again you might have a visitor, unexpected, that different than hosting a private gathering, you can have a visitor but make sure it is never over ten people the moment, you're over ten people inside your residence then everybody can be charged under this SI."
There is a $500 fine for people caught without wearing face masks, and business owners can be held liable if customers are in their establishments without masks.
There are also a few more regulations in place for businesses, both big and small.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth
"In terms of inside your building, business owners have to ensure that customers including staff must not make up more than 50% maximum capacity of your building. So if your building can hold 100 people which includes customers and staff you now can only have 50 people inside your business."
"Department stores, hardware stores, dry goods stores, and shops, we're going to have Justices of the Peace assigned to your business. If your business is more than 2,000 square feet in size, we will have Justices of the Peace assigned to your business and you will be responsible for paying the cost of having these Justices of the Peace."
"You know BPO's they don't have customers per se but they have hundreds of employees and so these regulations apply to them, the following regulations apply to them, so the Justices of the Peace will not be assigned to BPO's, but the responsibility for BPO's and other businesses still lie with the managers and owners. So they are to ensure that the employees are observing social distance among the workers, face mask at all times, they are to install hand wash stations at the entrance and within the BPO company and they are to ensure that no more than two people are seated at any one table and that during lunch breaks, the seating capacity of that particular room is up to 50% and no more."
"All businesses including BPO's shall appoint a COVID-19 internal auditor who will prepare and submit weekly reports to the Ministry of Health."
"Businesses are to implement a shift system unless they are essential businesses and essential businesses are those involved in health, tourism, banking, law enforcement, agriculture, or food. So all other businesses, if you are not essential you must implement a shift system. Every employer of non-essential business shall implement measures to allow their employees to work from home where possible."
Bars, nightclubs, gyms and gaming establishments must remain closed. Spas, beauty salons, and barbershops are only allowed two customers at a time, unless the building is small, then only one customer can be inside. Restaurants can still be opened for take out, delivery, or drive through. Those with outdoor or open air seating can have customers dine in, but they must make a reservation and only 50% of seating capacity is allowed.
As for churches, no more than 10 people are allowed inside for mass, weddings, and funerals.
Contact sports are still disallowed, and those who exercise outdoors must maintain a six foot social distance.
GOB introduces new regulations to contain the spread of COVID-19
On Sunday, December 20th, new quarantine regulations will introduce a new curfew and limit inter-districting travel, particularly from the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. Also, there will be further restrictions on public transportation capacity by 50%, the sale of alcohol, and new fines for employers and employees for violations against the regulations.
Minister of Health and Wellness Honourable Michel Chebat discussed the new regulations during a virtual press conference on Friday, December 18th. Chebat stated that in limiting traveling from the northern districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, it is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as these districts are experiencing a high number of positive cases and deaths. However, the mainland’s labour force that temporarily lives in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, can still travel to these districts to return home. According to the measures presented, other non -essential traveling will be restricted.
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