Belize Suspends Border Reopening After COVID-19 Cases Surge

The government of Belize announced a delay in the re-opening of Philip Goldson International (PIGA) due to a “spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in three districts,” said Dean Barrow the country’s prime minister, in a statement. The airport opening “will be announced at a later date,” Barrow said.

Preliminary results in Belize’s popular San Pedro district resulted in 14 new potentially positive cases of COVID-19, but government health officials are “currently undergoing the confirmation process,” said Barrow in a statement.

Although the airport will not reopen, weekly repatriation flights for Belizean nationals will continue, with all returning residents subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival. To date, Belize has reported 57 COVD-19 cases with two deaths from the virus.

Barrow had threatened earlier this week to postpone the airport reopening if contract-tracing on Ambergris Caye revealed more positive COVID-19 cases. The prime minister assailed the behavior of residents whom he said “have not exactly been following the ongoing guidelines,” according to a breakingnews.com report. The transgressions include a local wedding attended by 500 people, “jammed water taxis” and other violations.

Belize had been scheduled to open its borders to international visitors on August 15, announcing a series of health and safety measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Under the announced protocols, travelers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure or undergo testing on arrival, according to Belize Tourist Board officials.

Travelers will also be required to download the Belize Health App before boarding their flight. The app can be utilized for contact tracing should traveler develop symptoms or test positive. Arriving guests must also undergo a temperature check at the airport and wear a mask while traveling.

Airport capacity and additional health measures, including barriers and sneeze guards, have also been mandated, and luggage will be sanitized before being transferred into the terminal. New guidelines for tour groups, tourist sites and hotels will also be instituted.

Hotels will be required to attain the country’s “Tourism Gold Standard Certificate of Recognition” to operate. Under the program, operators will be required to maintain an array of hygienic amenities and services.

Check-in and check-out procedures will be performed online, and masks will be required in public spaces. Both guests and employees will undergo daily health checks, and properties are required to establish “isolation/quarantine rooms” for guests who may have contracted the virus.

In addition, tours will be limited to small groups to ensure social distancing, while the country’s many national parks will require appointments, allowing the government to safely limit the number of participants.

American Airlines (flying from Miami), United Airlines (from Houston) and Delta Airways (from Atlanta) have all confirmed to resume regular, weekly service to Belize upon the airport’s re-opening, according to Belize Tourism Board officials.

These efforts are part of Belize’s Phase 3 of its reopening plan. The country expects to open its cruise operations in Phase 5, according to a statement from Belize’s prime minister.

Belize has recorded 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has three active cases as of June 26, according to the Ministry of Health.

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