The possibility of the curfew being lifted is looking real tonight. Health and Wellness Minister, Kevin Bernard told Love News that the curfew may very well come to an end within the next month. The announcement comes on the heels of ease on several regulations including the return of sporting events with an audience as well as the reopening of the borders. The curfew was implemented almost two years ago on April 1, 2020, and with the significant decline of daily new COVID-19 cases, Minister Bernard says it might be time to lift the curfew following discussions with the COVID-19 Medical Response Team. Minister Bernard told Love News that there is a ninety five percent chance that the curfew will be lifted within the next few weeks.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “That has always been something that the general public feels a bit fatigued on and it has been something that we have been discussing. I can tell you that I’m taking to Cabinet pretty soon, by next week, a paper that will speak on how we start to live with COVID and one of that has to do with the curfew itself. While I know the curfew has had its own advantages, at the same time , Hippolito, people have, have been frustrated that being locked out, being locked out has been too long and constantly you know, the request has been coming in. When I met a few weeks ago with the COVID Medical Response Team they also feel that it is time for us to look at it. But we are doing this in looking at the numbers at the same time.If you look at the passed week’s trend, and I had said this initially, that the month of February, we had seen the peak early in mid-January, early in February and then take a deep dive down and we are looking exactly at that what is happening. Today if you look at the numbers, hundred and something cases. Our positivity rate is very very low and we are saying that once it’s within the 10 to 15% range then let us start to release some of the, ease some of the restrictions that we have in terms of the whole COVID regulations. So the curfew is one, the top priority, in trying to get that out of the way pretty soon.”
Reporter: What is the possibility of that, that the curfew would be removed in a couple of weeks?
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “ I’m more than 95% sure that that will happen. It’s yet just for Cabinet to make that decision after I make that recommendation. So I can see that happening pretty soon Hippolito. Over the next week or two, sorry, over the next two weeks we should be able to see that. We’ll be lifting the curfew.”
Reporter: Was that discussed in Cabinet today? Do you have support from your other colleagues? Because I know some of their constituents want the curfew gone.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Well let me say that I did not present that to Cabinet today. It was something that I discussed in the previous Cabinet but was asked to come with a comprehensive document to Cabinet, which I will be presenting next week and so consultations has been having. We’ve been having consultations with the Medical Response Team and others within the ministry and that is one of the first things that we looked at. Of course, as I would say, it has been two plus years that people have been battling with the curfew up and down, time changes here and there. We are opening up our country slowly but we must do it responsibly and if the curfew has to go it will also be upon us as individuals to adhere to the regulation that remains. You know so remember the wearing of masks doesn’t stop at this point in time. The fact that we need to keep our social distance so all of these things will continue to be there with maybe some also easing up but at the end of the day, I think it’s high time that we, they seriously look at ending the curfew. This is my personal position and at the same time, many others within the medical response team.”
The lifting of the curfew will surely be welcoming news for Belizeans, but what happens if there is another spike of cases once the curfew ends? Minister Bernard says he is optimistic that the figures will remain low.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “We have seen a spike even though we had curfew, Hippolito, so I don’t think that really justifies whether the curfew or not does the case. When we were at the high level of the Omicron peak, we had curfew. Curfew was in full swing. We knew this was going to happen. The trend was going to happen but for me I believe it’s just at the end of the day, people are fatigued with the curfew and we need to ease off some of these regulations and so if the number of cases rises back, of course the Ministry of Health, our COVID Response Team will look at all possible angles where we need to curb the spread. I’m optimistic, however, that we are looking at a spiralling down of COVID. We have to at some point start to understand that we must live with COVID and certain regulations that we have been able to put in place will have to be eased off slowly and the curfew is one of them.”
Reporter: It’s going to be like a free for all when you lift up the curfew. Do you believe that’s the way how Belizeans will interpret that?
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “I, Hippolito, let me say. I think Belizeans have been doing that even with the curfew and it’s a fact. What we have to do is put the onus on the individual. The onus is on me, on you, on all of us as Belizeans to do the right thing and I think that is one of the messages we have been saying. We have enough vaccines in this country for people to be vaccinated yet we are at only 49.67% of our population that is fully vaccinated so we have to insist and keep insisting that people get vaccinated. We must discipline and I keep saying this Hippolito, you know why? Because if you go to Mexico or you go to Guatemala and they have restrictions there, if they have certain restrictions, I best believe you that Belizeans who go over to those places will follow exactly the guideline so it is the same thing we are saying here. We have certain guidelines set out in this country that have COVID regulations. Whatever guidelines we have set during that time when we lift, if we do lift curfew or not, we need abide by those regulations so it is my responsibility, it is your responsibility to ensure that we protect ourselves and keep safe from spreading, stop, keep reducing the spread of this virus but also protecting our families and our loved ones.”
The curfew was first effected when the Barrow administration had declared a State of Emergency when Covid-19 was detected in Belize.
But while we may be saying goodbye to the curfew, you better hold on to your masks because those aren't going anywhere. The minister explained that while we do have to live with COVID, we still need to be cautious - meaning that washing and sanitizing hands, social distancing, and, yes, mask wearing will still be enforced.
Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness "That won't change at this point in time, that has to remain. We are guided as well by WHO and CDC, that we need to make sure that the wearing of masks, the washing of hands, the social distancing, remains in effect so while we may be easing up the curfew, those things will remain in place, the wearing of masks and so forth. So remember and I always say this, it is up to you, it is up to me, to protect ourselves and so we have to be cognizant of that as an individual that we want to ease off things, I want the government to ease off restrictions, but I must also be responsible as an individual that I am adhering to the regulations, making sure that these things that are set out in the regulations are being followed. Of course, we will require that police to also help with the enforcing of these things that we see people have taken for grateful."
Another thing that won't change is the regulation concerning bars and nightclubs. They will remain closed for the time being.