The Belize Ministry of Health and Wellness hosted a long awaited press conference, rolling out the new Statutory Instrument for 20 December deployed to quickly contain the fast increasing number of COVID cases and deaths.
Belize’s new internal travel restrictions do not apply to international tourists who are free to move around Belize.
Magali Marin -Young, Attorney General: “International tourists will be allowed inter-district travel, not for local tourists. This was weighted decision, a lot had to go into it but the fear is that if locals become tourist and wanting to go to the next nearby village, so because of that concern that it may be abused and the seriousness with which we have to restrict travel its only international tourists who will be allowed to travel to Orange Walk and Corozal on tours.”
Starting on the 20th of December, the curfew being imposed will commence at 8pm and it will go to 5am. For minors, children under 16 years old, the curfew will begin at 6pm and that will last till 5am. The sale of liquor will be restricted from 6pm to 7am with the exception of those restaurants that are in hotels. There will now gonna be a penalty for persons who have tested positive and are not adhering to the mandatory quarantine. The penalty for not wearing a mask will continue, here is now a restriction to public transportation where buses and water taxis will only be permitted to carry 50% of their seating capacity. (Image above: Belize Home Affairs Minister Kareem Musa)
In terms of businesses who violate and employees who violate these regulations, a $200 fine will be imposed on employees and on employers a $5,000 fine and a second violation by employers will result in their business being closed for a period of 7 days. We’re also gonna be imposing a fine for those people who continue to have parties at their homes. Businesses will only be allowed a 50% customer base which is will be based on their square footage. The new regulations call for a limit to non-essential travel, inter-district travel to and from the northern Corozal and Orange Walk districts. The concept behind limited this non-essential inter-district movement “…is very simple in view of the fact that are unable to sustain the type of protracted nationwide limitation of movement of the nature a scope that we have seen in other countries, the localized inter-district movement limitation instead seeks to attain a fall in the incidences and overall rate of transmission at the municipal and sub-national levels.”
Hon.Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries: “This curfew of 8pm excludes workers in the following professions: the security forces, customs and excise department, the department of immigration services, front-line healthcare providers with the Ministry of Health or any other essential worker issued a badge by the Minister of Home Affairs.”
“The attorney general’s ministry is currently drafting legislation that early in the new year we will be presenting so that police officers can issue tickets so that is not in place yet so you will still be detained, you will still be taken to the police station, processed, and you will still need to go to court at least until that law is passed.”
“No type of private gathering is allowed, you cannot organize host or attend private gathering. 10 people maximum so every now and again you might have a visitor, unexpected, that different than hosting a private gathering, you can have a visitor but make sure it is never over ten people the moment, you’re over ten people inside your residence then everybody can be charged under this SI.”
There is a $500 fine for people caught without wearing face masks, and business owners can be held liable for a fine of $5,000. if customers are in their establishments without masks.
There are also a few more regulations in place for businesses, both big and small.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth: “In terms of inside your building, business owners have to ensure that customers including staff must not make up more than 50% maximum capacity of your building. So if your building can hold 100 people which includes customers and staff you now can only have 50 people inside your business.”
“Department stores, hardware stores, dry goods stores, and shops, we’re going to have Justices of the Peace assigned to your business. If your business is more than 2,000 square feet in size, we will have Justices of the Peace assigned to your business and you will be responsible for paying the cost of having these Justices of the Peace.”
“All businesses including BPO’s shall appoint a COVID-19 internal auditor who will prepare and submit weekly reports to the Ministry of Health.”
“Businesses are to implement a shift system unless they are essential businesses and essential businesses are those involved in health, tourism, banking, law enforcement, agriculture, or food. So all other businesses, if you are not essential you must implement a shift system. Every employer of non-essential business shall implement measures to allow their employees to work from home where possible.”
Bars, nightclubs, gyms and gaming establishments must remain closed. Spas, beauty salons, and barbershops are only allowed two customers at a time, unless the building is small, then only one customer can be inside. Restaurants can still be opened for take out, delivery, or drive through. Those with outdoor or open air seating can have customers dine in, but they must make a reservation and only 50% of seating capacity is allowed.
As for churches, no more than 10 people are allowed inside for mass, weddings, and funerals.
Contact sports are still disallowed, and those who exercise outdoors must maintain a six foot social distance.