The Ministry of Health and Wellness, led by its new Minister, Michel Chebat, has announced an initial plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping through Belize. Along with expanded mobile clinics to offer rapid testing in remote villages, there will be a 21-day curfew. One of the priority campaign areas of this new administration was to develop and share a new strategy for COVID-19 going forward. After a very immediate and intense review along with several consultations, the Minister of Health and Wellness Hon. Michel Chebat, SC on the advice of Cabinet has approved the following recommendations to increase the response for change through specific key areas: Epidemiological surveillance, hospital and lab capacity, medical and pharmaceutical supplies and risk communication and education for behavior change.
- Improve Surveillance and Testing Capacities
a. Immediate – implement and scale up the use of rapid test in all district hospitals for symptomatic and close contacts.
b. Hire additional staff including (ex. laboratory technicians, lab aides, contact tracers and data entry clerks).
c. Active Surveillance with Ministry of Health teams at private businesses.
d. Establish testing sites outside of the hospital in accessible areas in urban communities and create two mobile swabbing teams for rural communities.
- Surge Capacity for Hospital Services
a. Hiring of additional human resources such as nurses, doctors, specialist heath staff, support staff for deployment to all regional and community hospitals.
b. Acquisition of additional medical equipment and supplies.
- National Public Health Measures for Containment
a. Implement curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for 21 days effective Saturday, November 28, 2020.
b. Restriction of gatherings remains at 10 people at general public places, including the immediate household.
c. Every organization is expected to implement work from home orders and/or staff shift rotation for employees.
d. Provide food packages and stipend to families in quarantine in conjunction with the Ministry of Human Development, Families & Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
e. Provide hotel for persons who cannot quarantine at home.
f. Assess housing conditions to determine adequacy for isolation and/or quarantine.
g. Enforcement of Quarantine Measures in conjunction with the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries.
h. Provide accommodation and other logistics for health care personnel.
i. New Health Education Campaign to reach both public and private sector in collaboration with the media and Non-Governmental Organization.
j. Restaurants without outdoor dining to have takeout and delivery service only.
k. Outdoors restaurants are allowed to operate with a maximum of 12 persons.
l. Churches can conduct service but it remains at 10 persons maximum
m. Bars remain closed.
n. Gymnasiums are to remain closed.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness is eager and committed to work with all sectors to reduce the increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths. The Ministry will continue to monitor the situation in the immediate short term and adjust plans as necessary on the advice of its medical team. Please continue to wear a face mask properly in public, maintain consistent physical distancing and wash and sanitize hands at every opportunity. Be safe and stay at home. – Belize Ministry of Health.
For the avoidance of any doubt click here to view or download the full and official text of the Statutory Instrument No. 170 of 2020.