Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2022. 9:06 am CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: Last week, Minister of Health and Wellness Kevin Bernard reported that Belizeans wanting to spend more than 24 hours outside of Belize following the reopening of land borders on Monday will need to take a COVID-19 test upon return that will cost $100, a test which the Belize Progressive Party is a means to rip off Belizeans.
BPP Party Leader Wil Maheia said that the party was not opposed to the borders reopening, especially after two years, but stressed that the reopening must be done as safely as possible, with the best protocols and procedures in place to protect Belizeans coming in and going out.
He pointed out that the required test being done upon returning from an overnight stay is a rapid test, the least valuable when discussing COVID testing.
“If you can get a COVID test for free at the Red Cross, why do Belizeans need to pay $100 at the border? And they give you a test you can’t even be used for travel. This is a rip-off. just a money-making scheme,” Maheia said.
A major concern raised is the fact that, under the requirement, a family of five, depending on the ages of its members, would need an additional $500 to return to Belize after an overnight stay, exponentially raising the cost of their trip.
The requirement came into effect on Monday, February 7 through Statutory Instrument No. 15 of 2022, the Public Health Reform (Prevention of The Spread Of Infectious Disease) (COVID-19) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022, to coincide with the reopening of the land borders.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness conceded yesterday that the reopening of the land borders will eventually lead to higher numbers of reported COVID-19 cases.
“It is expected. I mean with the reopening, if everybody is crowded together there is movement,” said epidemiologist, Dr. Russel Manzanero.
Since testing for COVID-19 began in Belize back in March 2020, there have been recurring instances of people testing negative via rapid test, and later testing positive via PCR test. The reliability of rapid testing is such that it has never been an acceptable means of testing for any kind of travel, which forms the basis for the BPP’s concerns about the nature and price of the mandatory test.
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