Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans not travel by cruise ship even if vaccinated for COVID-19. Cases aboard a number of cruise ships using U.S. cruise ports are being investigated. Last week, Mexico prevented a ship from stopping, and several Caribbean countries are also turning ships away as their governments attempt to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.� Today News Five spoke with Minister of Tourism, Anthony Mahler, who expressed optimism that Omicron won't wreak havoc on Belize's tourism industry and our economy as other variants have in the past. He seems confident the cruise industry will regulate itself but says, if a decision is made to close Belize to cruise passengers, the companies will have to comply.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism

"We'll keep focused and we'll do what we have to do to ensure that we don't fall back as much as we have in the past, when different variants came about, but I don't think this one will be as bad as the past one. The cruise lines will do everything possible to have their passengers as safe as possible. If you're walking through an airport, you can have a spread. If you go anywhere, if you go to a restaurant, you can have a spread. So I'm sure that the cruise lines don't want a no-sale order to be placed on them again. They can't afford that. There are billions and billions of dollars in debt and so they will do what is necessary to have their passengers as safe for cruising to continue. We're meeting with the Operations Committee for the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association later today and we'll have that discussion, but we won't take any position quickly. We'll look at what information we have on the table and we'll make the right decision for Belize. If we say that you can't come, then you can't come; but at this point, we're not saying that. We work closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure that our population is safe and our visitors are safe."

Marion Ali

Okay. The [land] borders reopening - that was pushed back (to February third) and I believe the Omicron had to do with that as well?

Anthony Mahler

"Yeah, we just listen to the medical task force and decided to look at what the Omicron will present for Belize but we believe that we could navigate through just like the rest of the world."

This evening the B.T.B. issued a statement saying today was the busiest cruise day of 2021 with six ships docking in Belize. The B.T.B. says the total number of arrivals was fourteen thousand passengers.

Channel 5