Belize’s land borders are scheduled to reopen on January 1st, 2022, and the Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) says that their formal position on the matter should be released within two days.
Following this week’s Cabinet brief that announced the reopening date, The Reporter reached out to the President of the Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) Dr. Ulidine Wright. The BMDA president explained that the association is taking a cautious approach to the topic and as such is polling their 200 members to get their feedback before they are able to comment.
Wright confirmed that the survey was disseminated on Thursday morning and that members were given 48 hours to respond. She promised that when the results are out she will be releasing those to the public to inform them of how the medical community feels about the reopening.
While the poll is ongoing, Medical pioneer, Dr. Marcelo Coyi, who also sits on the COVID-19 task force, says that the Government’s decision to re-open land borders on January 1st, 2022, is something that should have been done a long time ago since it has been proven that restricting travel between countries do not play any major role in the transmission of the virus.
“I think that it should have happened long ago, any blockage of travel whether it is air, sea, or land has not been found to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 infection. If you look at the airport, it has not been a major source of bringing in infection into Belize. So I think that once the proper health measures are in place and are being implemented, I think that it is safe to do so,” Coyi told the Reporter on Thursday.
While Coyi, who stressed that his decision to support the reopening of land borders is a personal one, he is of the opinion that only fully vaccinated persons should be allowed entry or exit through the land borders. He also stressed the need for the implementation of a negative rapid test upon entry into the country as well as the need for the strict implementation of public health measures at the various border points.
According to Coyi, “We are not in the same position that we were one year ago, because we have been offered the option to become fully vaccinated. We have more than enough vaccines for our population and so if you have not have taken up that offer to be vaccinated then tough luck, you can’t go abroad.”
The Reporter also spoke to Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Hon Anthony Mahler, who is in charge of Border Management. He told the Reporter, that the move to reopen land borders on January 1st, 2022, as was announced by Cabinet, is in an effort to jumpstart the economy, which has been taking a severe beating from COVID for almost 21 months. “Well there is a need to reopen the economy, but we need to be responsible, we have to get more of our people vaccinated, but we have to open up back the economy,” said Mahler.
When we asked him about the restrictions that will be applied to persons who are either visiting or departing the country he told us, “Well right now if you are going across for less than 24 hours then you don’t have to test but we are exploring that you will have to be fully vaccinated to go across the border and so that is about it.”
With the threat of the new Omicron Variant popping up in countries across the world, Mahler said that while that has always been a major concern for the Government, they have been keeping a close eye on the Phillip Goldson International Airport which has only reported a minimal amount of positive cases trickling through. He also pointed out the fact that the Freezone has only reported one positive case since it was reopened in February of last year, as well as the cruise ships that have been docking in the country with only a few positive cases. Mahler noted that all of the above scenarios simply cement the fact that the public is aware of how to manage the virus and in most cases has been doing a good job of it.
Preparations are already underway at the various border points as the ministry prepares for additional traffic coming through after almost 21 months of being closed. The Ministry is ensuring that they have the full complement of staff at their disposal as well as ensuring that the necessary infrastructure on the grounds is functioning and will be able to withstand the expected increase in visitors.