The latest obstacle in the fight against the pandemic is an increasingly vocal group of anti-vaxxers.
Though they don't refer to themselves as such, the Belize Justice and Rights Movement are science deniers - not believing in the pandemic nor the vaccine.
And today, Prime Minister John Briceno said that they need to stop using fear and false information to confuse the rest of the population. He said their outlandish theories may cause someone to not take the vaccine, which can land them in a hospital bed, or worse.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"It is unfortunate that you have a group of people that want to confuse Belizeans when it comes to the vaccines. I feel strongly that what they are doing is wrong. I mean the science is there. Look at what is happened right here in Belize, look at what happened in the United States - in the United States the people that are getting sick are those that have not gotten the vaccines. You hear all kinds of crazy stories, one of them that Bill Gates has a micro-chip in the vaccines, so that they could track what you are doing. I mean those are some really off the wall theories that some of these people are coming with and that people are dying. Nobody has died because of the vaccination, they died for something else."
"As the scientist have pointed out when they say that you could get a blood clot - the scientist has pointed out that a woman has a greater chance of getting a blood clot from taking birth control pills than from taking the vaccines. It's unfortunate and its wrong what these people are doing, because they are endangering the lives of people who are already scared. People are afraid of covid and people are afraid of vaccines and when you start hearing these kinds of crazy stories, of course then it will discourage people from taking the vaccines. We need to encourage people they are to take the vaccines. I took my second one yesterday, despite the fact that I had covid. Please get vaccinated. If we want to have a fairly normal Christmas, we have to get vaccinated. There is no other way to be able to achieve this."
LOVE FM had planned a "to vax or not to vax" debate which was generating a storm of negative reactions. The PM himself expressed his disapproval and called the station to say as much. But while there is such a thing as free speech, he says it cannot be used to endanger the lives of other people.
"I know another media house had plan a debate of sort to "vax or not to vax" and I understand that you had expressed your disappointment in this debate, but in a democracy can't it be argued that freedom of speech even if you agree with the speech it should be protected."
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"Rightly said and I commended the media house for the excellent work that they do every day, having the public debate on many issues, all issues of life in Belize and I commend them for want to do that. But in a democracy, you do not have the right to go for instance in a movie theater that's full with people watching a movie and to scream fire, because you are endangering the lives of others. The same thing applies to the vaccines. Not because we are in a democracy and you have a right. You do not have a right to be able to speak out and endanger the lives of people. This country has suffered tremendously because of covid19. As it is right now our poverty rate has gone from about 42% in 2009 to in 2018 it was at 51% and because of covid19 it is estimated that it is over 60% and the only way we can be able to get this country going - opening up the economy, getting people back to work is by stopping the spread of covid. This government, yourselves with the taxes that you pay and the taxes that all of us in this room pay have been paying for the millions of dollars that we spent in buying the protective gears for nurses and our frontline workers, getting the PCR tests, the rapid tests - retrofitting the KHMH to be able to attend to these covid patients that need ICU attention, the vaccines that we spent millions of dollars - this country cannot afford it and I am sorry, but these anti-vaxxers do not have the right as far as I am concern to go in the public square and confuse people."