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Did Belize take too long to impose travel ban due to novel coronavirus?

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Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2020. 9:38 am CST.

By BBN Staff: Yesterday the Government of Belize (GOB) announced a travel ban for anyone who has visited China within 14 days of their arrival in Belize as a means of safeguarding the country from the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, but did officials take too long to issue the ban?

GOB’s travel ban came after a situation at the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport yesterday, where 12 visitors who visited China within the 14-day span, were refused entry into Belize. Health officials released a statement later saying that the passengers were clear pending some immigration anomalies that needed to be sorted out.

“Given the recent situations with travel history that have been documented upon arrival at the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport and other points of entry, both the Ministries of Health and Immigration are hereby directing that all travelers who have been in China within 14 days immediately prior to arrival in Belize be denied entry,” GOB said.

Belize’s travel ban was issued on February 8th, by which time, the country had already experienced three suspected cases and had to dispatch teams from the MOH to investigate. Notably, on February 8th, news sources such as the BBC and CNN had confirmed that the virus has been detected in over 24 countries and has killed a total of 813 people globally (with only two of those cases being outside of China) surpassing the 774 people killed in the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003.

Numerous countries, including Vietnam, Australia, Japan, United States, Singapore, Mongolia, and North Korea had imposed travel bands on persons traveling from China as a safety measure by February 1. According to the Global Health Security Index, published in 2019, Belize ranks 135 out of 195 countries in preparedness for a health crisis, with the lowest score being in the “Rapid Response” category.
With no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Belize, it remains to be seen whether or not the travel ban came too late. We will be monitoring the situation.

 

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