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Marty Offline OP
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Today on the first day of the reopening of the land borders a huge crowd of people began to flock to the northern border from very early this morning.

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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Two Years Later, Vamos A Chet!

The day is finally here - the land borders are reopened after almost two years of being closed. It's been promised since last year and many had their doubts that it would actually happen. But this morning, our team went to the Santa Elena border where Belizeans were crossing as if it were 2019 - with a few changes, of course. A vax card is a must - or the app from the Ministry of Health - and if you're staying overnight, you need to have an extra $100 handy for a COVID test upon re-entry. But most Belizeans who crossed today were just happy to go to Chetumal - even if that meant returning before 6pm, when the borders close.

Traffic was minimal today though, with the occasional private vehicles and one bus, but by the end of the day over 800 Belizeans went through - some Freezone workers and some to enjoy La Ciudad De Chet. The border management is expecting more traffic on the weekend though and they are prepared for the crowd. And if you're unsure of how the process works, well, they'll be there to guide you.

Our team went through the border and crossed over into Chetumal, where they visited the Plazas Las Americas and one of Belize's favorite hotels, Los Cocos. Courtney Menzies has this story.

Courtney Menzies:
The land border are fully opened and here at the Santa Elena border, Belizeans have been freely crossing over into Chetumal for the first time in almost two years. But if you haven't been here since early 2020, a few things have changed. You have to be fully vaccinated to cross and if you spend overnight, you'll have to take a test. The port commander, Shanika Norales, explained the new process to us.

Shanika Norales, Port Commander, Belize Northern Border Station
"For exiting, of course you need to come between the hours of 6am and 10pm, you must have a valid travel document, you must be fully vaccinated. You will be issued a Ministry of Health form which is stamped by them to show when you left the country."

"For entry, there's only one bridge that can be utilized and that's the Chatemal bridge, which is the new bridge. There you will encountrer, the health authority, the diagnostic center which does the testing upon arrival and agency from BMA, border management agency, you will be issued a card where you will full out, if you are tested negative or positive, positive persons that are Belizeans will be able to come in after signing a mandatory quarantine orm by ministry of health. They will need to be escorted by a family member or utilize a gold standard tranposrtation which is also available at the OIRISA point."

And if that's a bit confusing for you, the border management team is out there to clear up any questions about where to go. And up until this morning, things were running smoothly.

Ken Gladden, Site Management, Border Management
"It has been going very smoothly I would say, we don't have a big crowd but I think by weekend we should be having a big crowd so then I expect we might have a bit of rushing but we basically want to say that any Belizean that come to the border you need to abide by the rules out here at border management premise."

And Belizeans have been counting down the days to be able to cross into Chetumal again. Today, while some went for shopping purposes, others went for medical and business purposes.

Resident Crossing Border
"Personally I can come and buy my stuff for my shop, I'm coming businesswise because we have a disadavantage, some supplies, they had to bring their money to the cargo, we used to depend on Mexican to do our shopping and for most of us it was a disadavantage because we are not getting our monies worth, some suppliers got, well, many Mexicans took advantage that we depended on them and we didn't get our monies worth so for mee it's good because I know what my customers want, what they ask for, so I could go and personally do my shopping for my shop."

Resident Crossing Border
"We're going over to seek medical attention for stones, that's the reason why we're going. And at the same time we'll do a little bit of going around to see how Chetumal city looks again."

Reporter
"So is it exciting for you that the borders are open again?"

Resident Crossing Border
"Yeah, it's good, but we believe that they should really have measures in place so that we can avoid the transmission of Omicron, Delta, COVID."

Reporter
"Did you used to go to chet a lot before this?"

Resident Crossing Border
"Yes we used to go maybe once a week."

Belizean Crossing Border
"Today I'm crossing for my baby, who is sick. It's for medical purposes I'm going to Chetumal. I am very happy the border open, I could go to Chetumal to check my baby."

Reporter
"Do you feel safe with the processes that have been implemented?"

Belizean Crossing Border
"Yes it's safe, everything is fine, everything is very good, by the rules."

But while he feels that the process is fine, one Belizean had an issue, and had to turn back to stamp his Ministry of Health issued card.

Belizean Crossing Border
"I filled it out, they told it's to so that I don't need to get a test when I come in, fine I filled it out, I did everything, I came back and I gave it to the people and they took it and they look at it, they did everything and they told me go on, you're okay. I had another guy with me, an American guy that I came to pick up, so he's over there, when I try to enter the border now, they told me go back, this is not good, they have to stamp it. But then I mean, look like theses people don't know what they're doing, at least maybe they haven't gotten it together yet."

Reporter
"So the process isn't smooth yet?"

Belizean Crossing Border
"Exactly. Because how much time they will turn people back up and down, this way?"

But still, Belizeans are glad that they were able to cross and just like them, the peseros at the border are ecstatic to be at work again.

Pesero
"Very good, we're happy but sad at the same time because one of our colleague family member is ill. We couldn't work during that time, they didn't allow us to work, so we were at home sitting doing nothing."

And one Chetumal hotel is giving Belizean a warm welcome with discounted rates.

Nedia Alvaran, Hotel Los Cocos
"We are very happy the employees just as the owners that it's been approximately two years that the Belizeans have not come around and we miss them. We appreciate Belizeans for choosing our hotels. And we are extremely happy that they are returning back to us."

"We are offering a special on hotel rates that the standard room is 1,300 pesos and for the Belizeans that rate is 850 pesos which approximately with the exchange rate is 106 per night."

And up until 4pm today, 893 Belizeans crossed the Santa Elena border, however, this number includes both Freezone workers and those who went over to Chetumal.

The borders close at 10 every night and reopen at 6 in the morning.

Many Too Poor For Melchor

And while those who went north were embraced - it wasn't quite the same situation out west. Many Benquenos who wanted to skip across to Melchor were quite surprised to find that they were being processed as regular tourists - and that meant they had to pay 600 quetzales - about 160 Belize dollars for a Guatemalan COVID test - which, of course, has to be negative - or the traveler has to return to Belize.

Facebook commentary from the border this morning indicated that the price of testing on both sides caused many who planned to cross, either to work or to make small sales, to cancel their trips altogether realizing that their profit margins disappeared right into the price of testing.

We note that Mexico does not impose any such condition on Belizean travelers. But, those who stay more than 24 hours in Chetumal have to pay $100.00 to a private contractor on the Belize side to have a test done.

Channel 7


Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Borders Reopen for Belizeans Bound for Mexico and Guatemala

Missing their loved ones on the other side, it has been a long twenty-two months for Belizeans with family in Mexico or Guatemala.� While tourists have been able to enter by land for some months now, it was only today that Belizeans could also go for purposes other than medical attention or some other special permission.� This morning, News Five's Paul Lopez crossed the northern border at Santa Elena and made his way to a downtown Chetumal hotel that was waiting with open arms to welcome their missing guests from Belize. Paul has some tips to make your travel as smooth as possible too.

Paul Lopez, Stand Up

The Belize Northern Border has been closed to Belizeans wanting to go across since April of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, that all changed today. By order of the Government of Belize, land borders are now re-opened.� We spoke to a few Belizeans that we met at the border.

Alex Cordova, Belizean

"Well, I am really happy. We have relatives across the border. We always use to cross. It was really hard for us to be able to. I am very excited about this."

Paul Lopez

"Where is more expensive in Belize or in Mexico?"

Alex Cordova

"Well like, it is a while I haven't been there so I can't tell you. But I guess everywhere is about the same, oh yes."

Manuel Manzul, Belizean

"It is good, it is ok. But, I am happy. It is time."

Paul Lopez

"What are you going over Chetumal to do today?"

Manuel Manzul

"I gwen and see family."

Paul Lopez

"It's been a long time that you have seen your family."

Manuel Manzul

"Yeah."

Mr. Canul, Belizean

" I nuh feel no way about it. All I should say is, we the people have to take care ah wih self. If we nuh have to guh cross dah Chetumal, we nuh guh cross, because we have everything weh wih need in Belize."

Andres Cowo, Belizean Pesero

" We dah money exchanger peseros, we dah wah cooperative."

Paul Lopez

"The borders have been closed for two years. So, you haven't been out here for two years. Is this your first day out?"

Andres Cowo

"Yes."

Paul Lopez

"Tell us how you feel about the fact that you get to come out here again."

Andres Cowo

"Well, I feel happy, glad, because now I could do a lee earning money for my family. I mih use to work only in my farm because of COVID you have to got some precaution of what is happening because I kinda lee old."

Once we got to the immigration booth we were required to show our passports and proof of vaccination.

Ken� Gladden, Site Manager, Northern� Border Management�

"This is routine work for border management. From the opening last May for tourism we have been preparing. Now, the big day has come. We have hired new staff. We are doing a lot of training with them. We are working along with the different agency workers, immigration and customs, so we are all prepared out here."

Paul Lopez

"What is the same, and what is different?"

Ken Gladden

"Well, basically it is the same. The only thing that has changed is the new stipulation in the new S.I where the requirement that you have to be fully vaccinated to cross the border."

Before crossing the Chactemal Bridge, we briefly visited the Ministry of Health's station at the Northern Border were we spoke with Dr. Angela Gilharry.

Dr. Angela Gilharry, Medical Chief of Staff, Corozal Community Hospital

"Upon departure there is a form that has been developed, very simple form, basic information, name, date of birth, passport number, border pass id numbers, signature and there is a small section for official use and that is where the immigration officer is going to date, stamp and sign that form upon exit. Now that form you are going to see a notice at the bottom, failure to produce this form upon return to Belize will require COVID-19 swabbing at the holder's expense, ok."

Every Belizean who spends an overnight in Mexico will be required to take a rapid test upon return at your own expense.

Dr. Angela GIlharry, Medical Chief of Staff, Corozal Community Hospital

"So we have three lanes, the first lane is dedicated for Free Zone and cargo traffic. The second lane will be for those that are doing the same day travelling. So at this point you are going to see one of our officers there, and they will be reviewing the departure cards that you are to present upon return. Once they confirm that it is the same date they will allow you to freely proceed. If you did more than one night, an overnight, then you will take the third lane. You will have to park and the first building is the check in health station."

Paul Lopez

"So, we are in Chetumal, and we are about to enter Los Cocos Hotel. This place has been getting a lot of attention lately, particularly by Belizeans on social media, for their special Belizean rates and inviting decorations. So, we are about to meet with Nidia Alvarado, who is the General Manager here."

Nidia Alvarado, General Manager, Los Cocos Hotel [Translated]

"We consider Belizeans our neighborly friends because they have always enjoyed coming to this hotel, because of our proximity to each other. That helps us a lot. And that is why we like to cater to our Belizean friends who choose to stay with us. We have always tried to participate in all the Belizean festivities. It has been two years since we have been able to celebrate the twenty-first of September with Belizeans. Unfortunately we have not been able to celebrate the Independence. We consider them to be very important for us because of their friendship."

Paul Lopez

"What are the promotions for Belizeans right now?"

Nidia Alvarado, General Manager, Los Cocos Hotel [Translated]

"At this moment, for standard room rates for general public are one thousand three hundred pesos. But, for Belizean the special rate is eight hundred and fifty pesos. At the current exchange rate that is one hundred and six dollars Belize."

The standard rooms include two beds. If you are willing to pay for greater luxury, you can choose from the premier rooms and villas, also at discounted rates. But of course, there will be no need for lodging if you only planning to travel only for a day, to dine at Church's Chicken, Burger King, or to spend a pretty penny inside Liverpool.

Channel 5



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