Posted: Friday, September 11, 2020. 3:41 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: In a potential game changer, by this time next week – September 18 – all land, sea and air borders of the Republic of Guatemala will be open with some limitations and insistence on following health guidelines, its Government announced on Thursday per the Associated Press.
Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases six months ago, Guatemala closed its borders to neighbours Mexico, Honduras and Belize, which have also closed theirs. Guatemala’s government has reported about 80,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 3,000 deaths, says the AP, as more than half of the country’s municipalities continue to be on the highest level of health alert.
The government notice also restricts Guatemalans’ ability to travel within the country for “recreational, social or familial” trips.
Leading Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre quotes the country’s director of civil aviation that on September 18, flights at La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City, will resume with the first arriving at 11:17 a.m. and another 15 minutes later.
Director Francis Argueta said this was good news for the country: “We are excited to see the first passenger on a commercial airplane arrive…” He added that Guatemala was following the recommended protocols from international civil aviation institutions, refined along with its Central American counterparts.
No family and friends are allowed to greet returning passengers apart from the designated driver. Wearing of masks, taking of temperature and use of hand sanitizer as well as the practice of social distancing will be observed, Argueta said.
Those showing symptoms will be dealt with per the protocol of Guatemala’s Ministry of Health. But even before arrival, PCR negative tests will be required for entry. Those without it can be tested at the airport and get results in two hours, or be quarantined for 14 days.
Those leaving Guatemala must be at the airport for three hours before their flight departs and controls will be expedited.
If a suspicious case is detected, the passenger and the two travellers who were closest to him are taken to the Health Center. The collaboration of passengers is also needed and there will be personnel to ensure that prevention measures are carried out, since it is already marked where people should be.
Argueta stressed the importance of tourism to Guatemala and announced that an unnamed airline will open routes from Guatemala to several major American cities: Los Angeles, Washington, and New York. He added that the country is reactivated economically and aviation is a sign of that.
Nonetheless, he pointed out that this is slow season for tourism in the region and the country will measure how commercial aviation will move forward.
The rest of Central America is also preparing to re-open: El Salvador and Costa Rica plan to reopen later this month; Belize will do so on October 1 per Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and Panama could reopen on October 14.
Belize’s western border point with Guatemala outside of Benque Viejo remains closed from our side, as are all other land and sea borders.
A popular day tour from western Belize to Guatemala is the Tikal Maya site at Flores, Petén; many tourism companies send visitors there. There is uncertainty as to how Belize will treat this reopening if it is successful.
Additionally, air service to Guatemala remains restricted. Tropic Air executive Anthony Hunt told us this afternoon that as of now, his company does not have plans to resume its service to Guatemala, but assured that it will eventually do so. Guatemalan company TAG Airlines is likewise restricted from flying to Belize.
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