Tonight on News Five’s COVID Chronicles, the long awaited reopening of the land borders happens next Monday. And, while some of you may already be putting your passports in your bags and finding stray pesos at the bottom of them, others are not so sure about going to Chetumal or Melchor de Mencos just yet. To help you make up your minds— and make sure you take enough funds to cover some additional costs, if you spend the night— News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a look at the new protocols you need to follow as you “guh cross” for the first time since April of 2020.
Paul Lopez, Reporting
Land borders across the country are scheduled to reopen on Monday, February seventh. There are a few things you will have to keep in mind if travel because going across won’t be exactly as it was before the pandemic.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health & Wellness
“The decision has been made that border will reopen on the seventh of February. There are protocols that will be placed in the S.I.”
The border will open from six a.m. to ten p.m. daily. Only fully vaccinated persons will be allowed to cross any of the land border points. Upon re-entry into Belize, there will be no need to take a test if you were away for less than twenty-four hours. But, if your visit exceeds that amount of time, you will be required to take a test upon return– at the whopping cost of one hundred dollars per person.
“What is the definition of fully vaccinated?”
“Currently we are talking about persons who have two vaccines.”
“In terms of testing for persons returning after twenty four hours, will they be charged for those tests?”
“What is the price?”
“I believe it is the same fee that is being charged at the border points. A hundred dollars I think, those are fees that they will need to pay.”
“Are these testing coming from a private entity?”
“Yes, those are the ones at the border. What currently exists will be the same thing in place
“Are you expecting push back on that particular protocol, given the fact that you are asking Belizean to pay a hundred dollars?”
“It is your choice if you want to go and travel. We are saying to you if you want to go and travel to Mexico and Guatemala, or wherever you want to go, that is your choice, personal choice. The issue though, when you come back you have to pay that fee. I think that is far from the point. The point is we are now opening our borders and we have to have certain restrictions. It cannot be that we are just going to let loose everything. We have to put some measures in place. Just as you are coming through airport, our land borders will require the same. It has existed, just that now we will allow Belizeans to leave once they are vaccinated.”
And, while you may have access to cheaper tests across the border, only tests paid for and done at the borders will be accepted upon return.
“There is a lot of things you have to consider when it comes to land. I could travel through Mexico City, stop at Guadelajara, stop all over the place. I may stay one night at a hotel that is overcrowded, maybe have COVID infections. I might go to another town and come in and when I reach Belize, you are to be tested. We want to ensure the safety of our citizens; people who are coming in are free from COVID.”
“What is the logic behind testing after a mere twenty-four hours if data shows that specifically Omicron variant, detection doesn’t come until after three days the least?”
“Well I am no doctor, but I am very sure Dr. Musa will be able to answer to that comment. But, I can tell you that once you over night stay then you will be required to test at the border facility.”
Dr. Melissa Diaz- Musa, Deputy Manager, Central Health Region
“With regard to the twenty-four hours, remember that we do surveillance. So, the incubation period of this virus is anywhere from one to fourteen days. So, you can be exposed and day thirteen you start with symptoms. Most commonly it is before five days. The reason we do the twenty four-hours, it is a true surveillance. We are trying to pick up cases. We are not saying you got it from Mexico. We are not saying what you did over there.”
You may also want to put aside additional cash, if you are traveling on public transport with plans to stay across the border for more than twenty four hours. Because if you happen to test positive upon return you, you will be required to take a gold standard transportation back home, that is, unless you are in your own vehicle.
Dr. Melissa Diaz- Musa
“If a Belizean tests positive, we are requiring that that person get into one of the Gold Standard taxis or vans that are there. They have been there on a regular basis, because we have been open for the tourist sector at least and persons needing to travel since June of last year. So there are many trained gold standard persons there. At the border points as well, we will be able to have transport from the Ministry of Health and Wellness from Northern Region. Perhaps we could assign one van in order to ensure that if it is an emergency we can help to facilitate. So it is not something we want to promote or say that this is available.”
“So it is safe to tell Belizeans, if you catch COVID in Mexico and you don’t have the money for transport, the Ministry of Health will cover you?”
Dr. Melissa Diaz- Musa
“No, I don’t think we want to say that is the case. That is the exception. If there is absolutely no other way that you can go, we will try to assist. But, if you travel these things you got to think about, that these things may happen, especially since we are still in a pandemic.”
As you make your plans to shop, dine, tour, or celebrate with a few cheap cervezas, don’t expect to see your Minister of Health anywhere nearby.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness
“*laughs*I am safe right where I am. Thank you.”