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PM Barrow says Ministry of Education prepared to delay reopening of schools

Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2020. 11:36 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Less than a week from school reopening and ten days from the airport doing the same, could it all go for naught, and would we all be to blame?

We have previously reported that in the recent cases of Blue Creek and San Felipe villages in Orange Walk District, which were in a state of emergency for just about two weeks after an entire family contracted COVID-19, the schools are physically ready, but the Ministry of Education reserved the right to say they should stay closed if there any concerns about the spreading of the virus there.

During Monday’s meeting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, quoting Education Minister Patrick Faber, said this would hold true for other border communities and indeed anywhere that could be a potential hotspot.

“While we want to reopen schools, we need to reopen schools – for all sorts of purposes including the mental health of the children and the parents – that in border communities, in those areas where the jumpers proliferate, and we are reaping the whirlwind now, in those areas, he is perfectly prepared to say school can’t reopen there,” Barrow said.

And he pointed out that while the Leader of the Opposition is right and that we have to learn to live with COVID-19, if collective behaviour does not improve the country is risking total lockdown once again, a situation that leaves the Prime Minister “apoplectic” in his own words.

Regardless of the consequences and whether or not Government is blamed, it is prepared to go ahead with reopening both schools and the airport, subject to a catastrophic event like potential community spread on Ambergris Caye. And in that case, he said, it would not be feasible to simply replace American tourists with Canadian or European ones who would still have to come through the States.

The Prime Minister concluded, “If we reopen the PGIA on August 15th, we will be ready! We insult those that have been working overtime to get this thing together. And indeed, you talk about what is happening in Jamaica or what happened in the Bahamas – our people look at the experiences there and see what went wrong, and we are trying to close those gaps. So, Madam Speaker, be assured: there will be no reopening on the 15th, except we are completely ready; and if even we are completely ready, I am telling you, if there turns out to be a community spread in Ambergris Caye, that’s going to be it, we will pull the trigger. Can’t work. So, Madam Speaker, I hope for the best, but to use that clichéd phrase, we hope for the best, but we are preparing for the worst.”

The Belize National Teachers Union as well as numerous teachers and parents have expressed concern about safety issues as the August 10, 2020 reopening date draws near. Yesterday, a record 15 new COVID-19 cases were detected in Belize and a large number of samples were collected as part of the contact tracing exercise in Corozal, Orange Walk and San Pedro. As COVID-19 cases increase in Belize and the reopening date draws nearer, Belizeans are anxious to see if government will revisit it’s decision on the reopening of schools.


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