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State of emergency for largest island in Belize

BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — Governor General Sir Colville Young has signed a statutory instrument bringing into effect a state of emergency for Ambergris Caye, the largest island of Belize, located northeast of the country’s mainland, after it recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Under the regulations for the state of emergency, people on the island are expected to practice social distancing. Travel to and from the island has also been prohibited for the next 72 hours and gatherings have also been limited to 10 people at any given time within public and private spaces.

The authorities say anyone who comes down with flu-like symptoms and who may have had contact with someone afflicted with the virus must immediately inform the Ministry of Health. People found in contravention of the regulations are liable for imprisonment for up to one year.

“In terms of the measures that we have already implemented and the fact that we now need to make absolutely certain that people comply, I will tell you that already the solicitor general is in the process of drafting regulations that will impose a penalty on those that don’t comply with the measures that we have prescribed,” Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said.

He said the oversight committee will look at possibly an even broader canvas and while he does not want to supersede the committee, “I believe it’s safe to say from now that bars, clubs, casinos… I don’t see how those can be allowed to continue to open”.

“And insofar as grocery stores, supermarkets, there will have to be the monitoring on the part of the owners of these properties, personnel being stationed at the entrances to control the flow of customers and to ensure that there is a line outside, there is a distance between the persons forming that line,” Barrow said.

Barrow said that a Cuban medical brigade will arrive in Belize later this week via private charter from Guatemala City.
The team of doctors will be deployed to San Pedro in the first instance to provide medical assistance for persons suffering from COVID-19.