Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Belize modify coronavirus-related emergency restrictions April 30. Restrictions to remain through at least June 30.

This alert affects Belize

This alert began 01 May 2020 00:46 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 Jul 2020 08:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least June 30
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions

The government of Belize announced new commercial, travel, and movement restrictions as a means of stemming the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The restrictions will be in effect May 1-June 30.

Under the new regulations, a nightly 2000-0459 curfew remains in effect. For children 16 years of age or younger, the curfew hours are 1800-0759. During curfew hours, only certain government employees and essential workers who have been issued a special pass by the government may be in public. Outside the curfew hours, residents may only be in public to purchase essential goods, attend to a medical or veterinary need, provide care to a child or a sick, disabled, or elderly person, or to work in an approved business. Outside exercise, such as walking, jogging, or bicycle-riding is permitted only between the hours of 0500-0800.

Fuel stations, agricultural and aquacultural interests, waste disposal companies, food markets, companies in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, public transportation providers, and food and carbonated beverage manufacturers may only operate between the hours of 0900-1700. Pharmacies, butcher shops, and food and beverage distributors may operate 0800-1900. Storefront offices for utilities, financial institutions, mechanic shops, parcel delivery services, hardware stores, and goods wholesalers may open between the hours of 0500-2000. Additionally, restaurants may operate 0500-2000, provided they do so exclusively on a pickup or delivery basis. Hotels may also operate, but are required to ensure that they provide accommodation only to Belizeans. Food mills and certain production factories, oil exploration and production facilities, ports, and public utilities may operate 24 hours a day. The new order also allows firms that provide approved businesses with goods or services to reopen, even though they might otherwise not be approved themselves.

Under the law, all businesses are responsible for ensuring that customers and staff maintain a distance of at least 1.8 meters (six feet) from each other and are required to place markers at store entrances and checkout counters indicating where customers must stand to comply with this requirement. Businesses are also responsible for ensuring that both employees and clients cover their mouths and noses with a mask at all times. Public transportation companies must provide hand sanitizer to all passengers. While some businesses in which people come into close contact, such as barbershops and beauty salons, may operate, they may only allow two customers on their premises at a time. Offices in which employees sit closer than 1.8 meters (six feet) away from each other must reconfigure to comply with social distancing mandates. Call centers may reopen, but they may only allow one person to enter the premises for every 1.8 meters (six feet) of space available. Companies must offer employees who can work from home the opportunity to do so.

People may travel between municipalities only to engage in essential activities or to patronized approved businesses; they must demonstrate that they were unable to do so in their home municipality. All persons must wear masks when in public or while patronizing businesses. Police and military personnel are authorized to stop and question any person in public to ensure that he/she is acting in compliance with the restrictions; persons stopped by authorities are required to cooperate. A major deployment of security personnel to enforce the order is likely.

The current closure of all borders and ports of entry, including Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE), will remain in force. Only cargo and emergency flights are permitted to enter the country. In addition to foreigners, authorities also prohibit Belizeans outside the country from entering. Exceptions are possible for medical emergencies; however, officials will hold those admitted to the country in a quarantine facility.

The law will remain in force for the duration of the state of emergency related to the spread of COVID-19. While the existing state of emergency expires April 30, authorities may extend it.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Belizean government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.