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The essential 10 percent

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Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2020. 11:08 am CST.

By BBN Staff: The interruption of daily routines brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has presented Belizeans with an opportunity to reflect on the world around them. As social distancing and quarantine measures become more stringent, the words “essential services” rise to a greater level of importance and shed some light on persons affecting those routines that may have often gone unnoticed due to the momentum of daily living.

On Sunday Belize saw the most stringent of those measures rolled out as Statutory Instrument 54 of 2020, declared a 90 percent shutdown of the entire country for the next two Sundays. In that declaration a special group of Belizeans, the 10 percent that we still allowed and expected to operate, were highlighted. These men and women have to report to work even in the height of a global pandemic, so that the country can continue to run. According to the Attorney General those distinguished persons work in: food mills (sugar, citrus, and other approved food productions factories), companies involved in oil production and or exploration, public utilities and independent energy producers which provide energy to public utilities, as well as Port of Belize operations and services connected with the loading and unloading of ships and aircrafts and delivery to and from ports.

The importance of the sugar industry is emphasized with every economic indicator report produced by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), as there is usually a direct correlation between the performance of the industry and overall export revenues for a given month. Similarly, the performance of the Citrus industry takes some prominence in the SIB’s reporting, all of which depend on the Port’s activities.

Public utilities, producers of energy and the port plays such an important role in everyday life that the absence of any one could disrupt or altogether halt operations at establishments countrywide, but the SOE further solidifies the importance of these workers, as they continue to keep the country running even as the outbreak nears 20 confirmed cases in Belize and two lives already tragically lost to the virus.

During the pandemic, the availability of supplies countrywide highlights the port’s role like never before and also underscores the risks its employees face. In a recently released statement from the Port of Belize Limited, the PBL said that it has suspended all non-essential activities and are implementing measures to protect its staff as doing so helps to protect the country.

“Not only is a single infection at the port a danger to the ability to get needed supplies to the public of Belize, but it could infect many families in our employ and others countrywide. PBL is joining others taking similar appropriate actions in order to support vulnerable families who may not be able to isolate and quarantine appropriately. This information has been communicated to our staff, and we ask for the public’s patience during this period of the pandemic,” the PBL said.

Breaking Belize News (BBN) takes this opportunity to salute the brave men and women that make up the 10 percent and thanks them for their invaluable service to Belize.

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