Judith Alpuche: Safety remains in mind as PGIA reopens
CEO of the Ministry of Human Development and chair of the National Task Force on […]
Prime Minister announces PGIA will reopen on August 15
Belize’s only international airport, the Philip Goldson International Airport, will reopen on August 15 after […]
The Countdown Begins: 51 Days to Tourism
COVID-19 shut down tourism at the end of March. But, tonight, there's hope on the horizon for Belize's main foreign exchange earner, and the thousands who've been jobless for three months now. The Prime Minister held a press conference with his key advisors to announce the date for the tourism re-opening at a virtual press conference this morning. Jules Vasquez has the story: Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize: "We are able now to announce a firm re-opening date for the PGIA. That date ladies and gentlemen, is August 15, 2020."
Why Open Now?
And, as the PM said, there's no perfect time to re-open in the present global climate. But many would argue, that with the US facing a major spike in cases across 20 states - now is the worst time. The Prime Minister explained that - apart from the nosedive in Belize's economy - there were also other external factors that forced the re-opening: "I hear you that if we it appeared to be particularly dangerous to do so at this time, when you don't expect, we don't expect a huge flow, why don't we wait until November?...."
Belizeans Will Be Able To Return Without Quarantine
And, the opening for tourism also gives Belizeans who have been stuck abroad a chance to return home - without having to go through that expensive mandatory 14-day quarantine. It works out to about $1,500 Belize dollars for the two weeks in complete lockdown at a designated hotel. Starting on August 15th, returning Belizeans will be able to avoid that - but on the condition that they bring a PCR test which says they are COVID negative. Failing that, they will need to take one when the return. The PM explained:
The Problems With A PCR Test
So, returning Belizeans are encouraged to have a PCR test which shows them as negative for COVID 19 within 72 hours of them travelling. But how realistic is that? First off, it's hard enough to get a PCR test done in the states, and those who can get one, will struggle to get it back in three days. Second, it's only a test of the moment when the patient took it - they could have contracted the virus after that, especially when travelling through airports. We asked about that limitation today:
Will SNAFU's Undermine Airport Testing?
We also asked the Director of Health Services how the Ministry of Health hopes to manage doing dozens of varied types of COVID 19 tests daily when the airport re-opens. Our information suggests that even keeping up with the testing regimen for repatriates has been somewhat of a challenge. We have heard stories of extended delays in getting tests returned to those repatriates, and also of samples getting lost in the system. We asked about that today:
Can Tourist Tracking App Work In Real World Setting?
And apart from testing tourists and repatriates at the airport, one of the major features for keeping any possible COVID cases contained is tracking tourists. As you heard earlier a travel app will be used for that. But, from our review of global news, these are less than an ideal way to track a virus whose transmission doesn't follow the logic of an app. Mike Singh - Chief Technology Officer, CITO" "I don't think we will have 100% accuracy. Most people don't leave their phones, I don't know if you leave your phone whenever you go anywhere because it's now become part of our human being. Elon Musk said we are all cyborgs because we have this device attached to us 24/7..."
Almost A High Speed Collision With Highway Patrol
The driver and passengers of a highway patrol vehicle are lucky to be alive after a near head-on collision at full-speed with a sand truck. It happened this afternoon at 3:30 at mile 9 on the George Price Highway just before Sunset Park.
BTIA Ready For Tourism To Reopen
At the top of the news we told you about the August 15th re-opening of the PGIA. We got reaction from the head of the Belize Hotel Association and the Belize Tourism Industry Association. We start with the BTIA where the Executive Director told us that members of the Association have already been doing their own preparations for the day when visitors would be allowed to travel to Belize. Via teleconference this evening, he shared his views on the role that the Government and the industry stakeholders need to take, in order for the recovery of the industry to properly begin:
BHA Rearing For Re-opening
And while the BTIA is striving to meet expectations, the BHA is expressing its excitement at GOB's decision to finally set a reopening date. And BHA President Ted Tejada says that hotels need to re-start their marketing campaigns in an attempt to recapture the wanderlust lost during COVID-19: "We have been receiving comments after the prime minister announced and first of all let's congratulate the entire team that has been working on it because it hasn't been easy. We know that the team has taken everything into consideration, the medical results and all the experts out there asked what is happening in Jamaica and these countries that have already re-opened. We have been tracking that everyday, so congratulations to the team and we are all excited that a date has been set..."
Masks Going Nowhere
And if there are celebrations of any kind - they may have to be with masks on. The PM confirmed today that even after the state of emergency is repealed next week, there will be statuary instruments to make sure that the requirement of wearing masks and keeping social distance remain in place: "Under the Quarantine Act, SIs will be signed and promulgated, in this case by the director of Health Services, requiring, as a matter of law, the wearing of masks and the practicing of the social distance prescriptions. So, nothing will change in that regard. You do not need a state of emergency superstructure to provide for the policing of those core restrictions that will remain and that will be promulgated afresh now by an SI or perhaps a pair of SIs."
Will US Tourists Follow Mask Protocol?
And while returning Belizeans may have to cool their heels in quarantine, what may be even more of a challenge is getting US visitors to wear masks. If you follow the news, you'll know that many Americans reject wearing a mask as a fetter on their individual freedom. Well, the PM says if that's the way they feel about it, please stay home:
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