Posted: Saturday, October 24, 2020. 10:03 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The entire 55-person staff of the Police Department’s Prosecution Branch, based in Belize City, has been sent home, either because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or to quarantine and self-isolation because they are showing symptoms.
Add to that staff at the Magistrate’s Court and in the Interpol Unit in Belmopan, and as many as 130 cops and others are either out sick or home to prevent sickness – a significant loss of manpower at a critical time.
The unit, led by civilian attorney Alifa Elrington, is responsible for prosecuting cases and maintaining order in the Magistrate’s Court and the nearby holding area for accused prisoners.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police, told Channel 7 News on Friday that the shutdown decision was taken earlier in the week after the Ministry of Health came in to do more testing. Four persons are confirmed positive and another 19 await the results of their tests, but some are showing signs of headaches and loss of sense of taste and smell. Those results are due by Sunday. Another five persons are said to be positive at Magistrate’s Court – a secretary and four prosecutors.
The environs of the court and prosecution unit office were sanitized and deep cleaned on Friday for, it is hoped, re-opening on Monday. The Department will try to find replacement officers for those out stricken.
The Commissioner has his own headaches because the Ministry of Finance has frozen recruitment and other means of filling vacancies, while the Police are expected to perform to their usual high standards.
But Commissioner Williams insists his men and women are and have been up to the job and they will keep on pushing to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Meanwhile, Belizeans are encouraged to maintain the rules to reduce the Police’s headaches with enforcement.
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