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Closer to Normal?

Posted By: Marty

Closer to Normal? - 05/16/20 11:34 AM

Tonight we start the news with a take on Belize's new normal, the intermediary stage after our first wave of COVID-19 - and beforewho knows what comes next.

And in this new masked, gloved, hyper-policed and ultra-sanitized world, nothing is what it once was, and simple pleasures like dining out and taking an afternoon swim, or an evening walk are governed by strict regulations.

It's a world in which Belizeans wait with bated breath for the next relaxation to inch us closer and closer to the world we knew, while wondering if we'll ever see it again. Cherisse Halsall reports:

Yesterday marked Belize's 31st day without a positive COVID-19 test and to solidify the end of what has been deemed Belize's first wave of the pandemic, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced the relaxation of certain personal and economically stifling safety regulations.

Cherisse Halsall
"Dining areas in restaurants all over the country have been empty for more than a month. But, now that regulations on restaurants have been slightly relaxed to permit outside dining, eateries - eager for the business - are quickly finding ways to adapt to this new normal of eating out in the open air."

And here at Celebrity Restaurant they've had to swap crystal chandeliers for an outdoor palapa- a switch up in ambience- but no compromise to service.

Indira Logan, Supervisor/ Hostess/ Bartender
"We always have a smil on our face and this is Celebrity, they will expect nothing but love from us."

"It will be different but it will be something that we can adjust to it and it will be very natural and same food and everything, and everyone will enjoy it so it will be a pretty experience for everyone people are always asking about outdoors and they want to go outside do we have outdoor stuff and things so it will be a pretty cool thing for our customers."

"Everyone will be happy and just go home happy your bellies are full."

And Celebrity isn't the only restaurant going open air. Yesterday Chon Saan palace, the country's oldest Chinese restaurant, announced its new outdoor veranda lunch and early bird dinner.

We stopped by to try it out first hand, and Manager Lee Mark Chang told us that success in business often comes down to an ability to adapt.

Lee Mark Chang, Owner, Chon Saan Restaurant
"A lot of people you know I guess didn't believe we have an outdoor dining here or the possibility of an outdoor dining."

"I guess all you need to do is be creative and adapt to the environment, the world is ever changing, so we always have to adapt."

Lee Mark Chang, Owner, Chon Saan Restaurant
"Yesterday the attorney general said that there would only be outdoor dinings so I said might as well we try because we do have some customers that want to try and the only outdoor area at Chonn Sann is this verandah right here so we said you know what let's slap up a couple tables and we'll make a stab at it and see how the customers like it."

"I'm just hoping for a soft opening. We only have three or four tables available because we need to make sure that all tables are six feet apart but we'll see how it goes. I mean we have some customers who have already made mention that they want to come. We had our first reservation today for 12:10 I think and we'll see how it goes. The caribbean sea is nice and cool so it won't be that hot."

Another famous Belize City eatery has a similar perspective on post COVID restaurant resurgence.

Chantelle Young, anager, Bird's Isle Restaurant
"We're expecting for this week we'll play it by ear and see how it works with what we have set up already with the thatch and as I mention we do have an entire yard here and land that we can expand a little bit put extra tables and accommodate as many people as possible but be safe at the same time."

"hen you come in the requirement is that the mask is on, when your sitting down having your conversation, waiting for your food we ask that the mask remains on our staff is fully educated and well equipped so if they do approach you it's not a combative situation we just ask you please maintain the mask while your waiting for your food and drinks and we do understand of course when that service starts where you start to consume food and beverages at that point the mask can be removed but once that service is finish and the consumption is finished the mask does go back on."

"t's a great thing for us and we definitely want to take advantage of that because many of our customers miss our ambiance and miss the island and they want to have that feel of that island energy and so we do have to put things in place just to be a responsible small business."

And while restaurants have been given the go ahead, the regulations are a bit muddled when it comes to self employed taxi drivers. That's because SI 72 makes no specific mention of drivers being allowed to operate from stands.

Stanley Thomas, axi Driver
"As you can, and see we haven't heard anything official, but we taxi drivers took it open ourselves to come out to the taxi stands. We haven't heard anything from the minister's, we haven't heard anything from them so I don't know if it's still illegal, I don't know but we are out here and so far the police they just pass and haven't said anything to us."

"Right now so far since we're out here we've been taking a little one or two cents home nothing too great but we're taking a one or two cents home so we can take care of ourselves and feed our families."

Edward Sanchez, Taxi Driver
"Everything is really slow but it's getting better than first right now because a little bit more people are out on the street but it's still really slow because it;s a struggle to make $40.00 or $50.00."

"Few times people call now because people don't have money to much so they can't even call for a cab."

Cherisse Halsall:
"So as the President of the association what were you hearing from your fellow taxi men during the SOE?"

Vincent Wade, President, Majestic Taxi Association
"Trust me I can't even talk to them so easily due to them not being out much and most of them it's because they were under pressure, how were we gonna do it without being out on the streets? This is where we have to get it together. We can't sit down in front of our tables and eat just like that, no man, it can't happen like that, we have to be out here as hustlers."

"Home you can't do anything home that's impossible especially the area you live in it's not everybody that will be passing back there for taxi. It's not everybody that has your number to call you and say well okay --pull up, when you're out on the street you stand a better chance. So whoever the guy-the big man-he knows what time it is, it's about time release we free we up cause we have our own quarantine you stay in your car, you stay your distance, I stay my distance."

Aside from business concerns the PM addressed a more personal concern allowing Belizeans to once again swim seas and rivers. It's an announcement that brings much-needed relief to a water-loving population whose only respite from the heat last month was the backyard kiddie pool.

In a Facebook post this morning the Commissioner of police stressed that while swimming has once again been allowed, face masks must be worn right up to and after the point of immersion.


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