Posted: Friday, June 4, 2021. 3:12 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: In just a year, Belize went from having under 20 reported cases of COVID-19, to having over 12,800 cases.
Archive data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness show that as of June 3, 2020, Belize had 18 reported cases and two deaths. The June 3, 2021, daily report, showed that the country had a total of 12,840 reported cases, of which 7 were newly-confirmed cases, and 69 were listed as active.
When BBN first requested information from the then Ministry of Health regarding the emergence of the viral outbreak in Wuhan, the People’s Republic of China, back in late December 2019, the issue had not made it on to the Ministry’s priority list. By December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had come across a statement from the municipal authority in Wuhan, about an outbreak of pneumonia. By January 9, 2020, health authorities in Wuhan and identified that the infection was the result of a novel strain of the coronavirus.
On February 11, 2020, the WHO officially designates the novel coronavirus strain COVID-19. health authorities in Belize began warning at that time that the arrival of the virus in Belize was imminent. On March 11, 2020, the outbreak was officially designated as a global pandemic. Belize would see its first case of the virus on March 23, a 38-year-old woman, living in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
Following the confirmation of the first case, the Government of Belize (GOB) declared a State of Emergency in San Pedro and locked down the island, preventing anyone from leaving. By April 1, that SOE had extended to the entire country. Belize suddenly saw unprecedented restrictions in movement, as authorities worked to improve testing capabilities and find out as much information about the virus, which seemed to be changing daily. Later in April, beloved city Council employee Hubert Pipersburgh would become the first Belizean to lost his life to the virus,.
As the year progressed and the number of cases continued to climb, authorities identified major problems with respect to compliance with SOE regulations particularly with mask-wearing and curfew violations. On several occasions, police made arrests in the triple digits. People continued to host private parties, and border jumpers also posed a serious health and safety threat to communities in northern and southern Belize.
In response, authorities set up a hotline where members of the public could report illegal parties, and legislation was adjusted to provide stiffer penalties for border jumpers. In August, the country saw an explosion in the number of cases, which authorities said was closely linked to the expiration of the SOE in early June. By December 2020, the number of confirmed cases had gone up to over 10,900 cases with over 200 deaths.
Efforts are currently underway to roll out COVID-19 vaccines in a phased approach, with over 12,000 Belizeans now fully vaccinated according to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Despite these numbers, the Ministry urges Belizeans to continue following the established protocols such as mask-wearing, hand washing, maintaining physical distancing, and only leaving home to conduct essential business.
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