The novel coronavirus has changed life as we know it. But some countries have emerged relatively unscathed. Among them is Belize. Not only were we last country in the Americas to report a case of COVID-19, but on May 5, 2020, we were also the first to report zero active COVID-19 cases.
How Belize flattened the curve
A major factor in our COVID-19 success was the prompt action taken by our leadership. When the Caribbean Public Health Agency upgraded Belize’s risk of outbreak to “high” in early March 2020, we moved quickly with risk reduction measures.
Mere days later, Belize had established a COVID-19 Task Force and a COVID-19 National Oversight Committee. Prime Minister Dean Barrow noted that we were “preparing for all scenarios”, guided by the lessons and best practices both of Belize’s own professionals and those from other affected nations around the world.
Belize’s speedy lockdown measures
By mid-march March, when COVID-19 was spiking around the world, we closed almost all of our ports of entry. We also implemented entry restrictions from foreigners traveling from COVID-19 stricken regions, and soon after tightened our borders to prevent all foreign travel.
When our first case was confirmed in San Pedro in Ambergris Caye on March 23, we implemented a local State of Emergency in the island region, closing all bars, clubs and casinos. Self-isolation and social distancing became the norm.
As a handful more cases were confirmed in northern Belize and the cayes, these measures were extended, with a 14-day nationwide lockdown declared on April 11. Testing and contact tracing measures were introduced, and essential workers were advised to wear masks and gloves when at work.
Zero cases means reopening is near
These efforts paid off. On May 5, Belize was able to announce that it had zero active COVID-19 cases. In fact, to date, we have recorded a total of only 18 cases and 2 deaths – none of which have been in or near Placencia, in the southern part of Belize where Sirenian Bay is located.
Not only that, but in an April 29 ranking of countries most ready to emerge from lockdown, Belize came in at #5. Even so, our administration is being cautious due to the fact that surrounding nations are still registering new cases.
On May 1, as a precaution, the government extended our lockdown by two months – although some restrictions for businesses are being eased.
We applaud the Belize government for its quick action and concern for its residents and visitors. By moving quickly, closing our borders, employing lockdowns, and implementing testing and tracing, we’ve been able to save both lives and livelihoods – and when we’re able to open back up, we’ll be able to do so safely and with minimal disruption.