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80% of BMDA members support border reopening

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

Approximately 80 percent of medical professionals support the land-border reopening originally scheduled for early January 2022, a recent poll from the Belize Medical and Dental Association confirms this week.

After the land borders have been closed for months, the BMDA’s poll of their 200 members revealed that 76.6 percent of members have voted in favor of the reopening which the government announced on Wednesday has been pushed back to February 2022.

Approximately 14.1 percent voted for the borders to remain closed, and 9.4 percent were undecided.

The poll was launched last Thursday and members were given 48 hours to respond. When the results were completed it took BMDA President Dr. Uldine Wright by surprise.

Wright explained that while she had expected a majority of “yes” votes, she did not expect it to be the vast majority. With that said, Wright stressed that it was not a position that was taken “just like that” but that rather there were a lot of reasons behind their decision.

“First of all, our positivity rate is down. Yesterday, they reported a 2.58 positivity rate. So once that is below five percent it means that we can go back to normal life providing that we adhere to the public health measures, mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing. Vaccination is what sets us apart from last Christmas. We now have the vaccines at hand and by this time we believe that the population that will receive their vaccines will have already gotten it, so why would we delay the progress of the country because of a selected few who do not choose to become vaccinated.”

According to Dr. Wright, BMDA’s members strongly agree that only vaccinated persons should be allowed to traverse across the borders since they have more protection than unvaccinated persons. Wright is also suggesting that the Ministry of Health continues to educate the public on the new variant, encourage vaccination and booster shots which at this point only stands at 3.2 % of the population and continue to enforce the public health measures. For persons who are returning back home after a day, she says that there does not seem to be a need to test but that persons who have been gone for more than a day should undergo testing upon entry back into the country and undergo an additional PCR test after three days to see whether they are infected.

“Belizeans have to learn to deal with the virus. We have gotten it under control and at this point, I do not believe that we will not have an increase in vaccination because we see that the Government has eased the restriction. Omicron will reach Belize but it will be long before the borders open. It will more than likely come in with the airplanes that are coming through the PGIA. I am of the view that the same measures that are applied there be applied to the land borders,” said Wright.

But even as members have cemented their position, Wright told the Reporter that that can change quickly and that they will be looking at the situation in Mexico and if at any point they become a “red zone” then the BMDA will be the first one to sound the alarm. She referred to the situation in the US where the Omicron variant has taken over and now accounts for 73 percent of cases as of Tuesday as opposed to 3 percent last week.

“We know that Omicron is deadly. At this point, we do not know whether it is deadlier than Delta but the reports coming out right now do not show that it is. It shows that it is very much more contagious but there are fewer persons being hospitalized when compared to Delta. So the number of positive cases with the ratio of hospitalization is less in Omicron than it is in Delta but we also have to bear in mind the various factors that these other countries had with Delta.”

As it relates to the comment from Deputy Regional Health Manager for Central Health Region Dr. Melissa Diaz Musa in which she had told one media house that she had requested that the reopening of the borders be stalled, Dr Wright said that while she can understand Dr. Diaz’s concern, she is of the belief that the emphasis and concern should be placed at the PGIA. That is where tourists have been flocking in from Europe and the United States, both of which are countries that are experiencing a surge in Omicron infection.

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