COVID-19 shut down Belize tourism in March. But 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 advisors to announce the date for the tourism re-opening at a virtual press conference this morning. (Image Credit Belize International Airport Elaine)
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.”
And that means a re-opening to COVID country, the USA – where the greatest majority of Belize’s tourist come from. But COVID rates spiking in Florida, Texas and California – all states with direct flights to Belize, ¦the decision was based on the fact that, basically, you can’t run from the darkness in the night.
“In the circumstances and with the experts confirming that there is no end to this sea of corona trouble is in sight, it seemed to us futile to hope that waiting any longer would provide a more favourable launching pad for our tourism restart. So, we fixed on our August 15 date. We decided that any further delay would likely gain us nothing for safety standards.”
And for safety there are extensive measures in what is called phase 3 of the reopening of Belize.
And these measures start to kick in when the guest makes reservations to visit Belize:
Karen Bevans – Director of Tourism
“As a part of this pre travel process, the passenger will start by booking flight and hotel. Once the hotel confirmation is issued, the hotel will be asked to respond, to inform the guest that the Belize health App must be downloaded and completed, as a requirement for entry into Belize.
The hotel will also encourage the guest to take a COVID PCR test within 72 hours of travel, by highlighting the fact that producing a negative result on arrival in Belize, will allow for a ‘fast track’ arrival process.
- Passengers that are unable to provide a negative Covid PCR test result, must then take a rapid Covid test on arrival here in Belize. This will be at a cost to the passenger.
- Passengers who test positive using the rapid test, must immediately enter quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days at the passenger’s expense.
- Passengers which a negative result from the rapid test, will be allowed entry but can also be randomly selected and swabbed for a Covid PCR test depending on the results of their health screening or the symptoms of illness displayed.”
And while that is for the passengers, their luggage will also get special handling
“1. All luggage will be sanitized after being removed from the plane, and then placed on the carousel.
- Passengers will then be able to pick up their bags and place it on new luggage scanners that are being procured to minimize contact between the passenger and our customs officers.”
From there, visitors will go in approved vans to their destination hotels where they are more or less supposed to stay:
“The Opening of hotels will be in a phased approach, and at the opening of the PGIA, the first grouping of hotels that can be allowed to open include properties that:
- Have achieved the Tourism Gold Standard Certificate of Recognition, and
- Provide full service to guests.
Within the local communities This means that these hotels are able to provide all amenities, so as to contain the guest on the property, and minimize opportunities for guest interaction within the local community. These amenities include having transportation to offer pick-up/drop-off services from the airport; having access to a Restaurant on property, have a Pool or access to beach front and to be able to provide isolated tours, limited to guests of the property only.”
And to make sure there’s limited interaction with the community and general population there’s a Belize travel tracking app that will attempt to monitor the movement and activities of tourists:
Michael Singh – Central Information and Technical Office
“We’re talking about starting from the point of when a visitor starts planning their trip to Belize, until they board that plane to leave the country to be able to have a connection between traveller and all the government agencies that are monitoring and that are looking for things like health signs and most importantly to be able to track their location and their movements. The visitor will download the app from the moment they book a trip to Belize and from that point, we will start interacting with them to be able to get health conditions, to be able to understand perhaps their history of where they’ve been, where it is you’re coming from, so we know where the hot area origins are coming from. To be able to upload test results that they have done before they come to Belize and to be able to provide them with a digital health passport. Certain things like geo fencing and breadcrumb tracking, it means that when those safe areas are designated by the BTB, we geo fence them, so know when a visitor moves out of those zones and to be able to alert the health authorities, be able to communicate with them instantly to be able to understand where they are going and most importantly to be able to record the breadcrumbs, where they’ve been, so in the event we need to do contact tracing on a positive case, we have that data readily available.”
They had a push earlier this month in Jamaica and Antigua with mixed results, and these folks say that Belize’s effort is more stringent:
Dr. Marvin Manzanero – Director of Health Services
“The advantage I think we also have we can learn a lot from the experience of neighbouring countries, we can learn a lot from what countries in the Caribbean region that have similarities with us and we’ve had ample opportunities to better prepare.”
“You spoke about Jamaica, well you could have gone to Antigua and Jamaica reopened and 14 cases right away and Antigua had 39 cases but the difference, I’m not sure if initially, I don’t know that Jamaicans were testing in a way that we are proposing to test and certainly I know that the Antigua won’t, I can say that definitively but suffice it to say, that I don’t know of any the Caribbean countries that have re-opened that are subjecting people to a double layer test. In fact, as I said, one wasn’t subjecting them to test at all, except they did appear from the screening protocol to be possibly problematic. So, that’s a huge difference.
“We keep hearing that this thing will be with us for a very long time, you start hearing experts talking in terms of years. We therefore cannot wait forever because no time will ever be right as long as the virus is with us. We are satisfied that we have waited as long as we could have in an effort to be absolutely ready when the doors open as we’re planning to do now but we concede that it is not going to be completely free of difficulties.”
— Aggregated from Belize news sources