By Michelle Sutherland
Most remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted as of the start of next month, including those that applied to bars and nightclubs, Minister of Health Hon. Kevin Bernard confirmed with The Reporter late this evening.
After having successfully made the case for the change in the regulations at today's Cabinet meeting, Bernard told our newsroom that as of April 1st the relaxation of the rules "will include bars and nightclubs, which will now be allowed to reopen."
The minister also explained that the mandatory wearing of masks indoors and outdoors will also be scrapped. The wearing of masks will now be a personal choice because it will no longer be a crime. "All of those major public events will now be opened without any restrictions. There will no longer be any restrictions on those types of events," Bernard shared. "We felt that it is time that we open back the country." Bernard, however, indicated that while 99.9% of the remaining restrictions have been lifted there are some that will need to remain in place for now. For instance, he explained that "unvaccinated Belizeans" will only be allowed to exit for medical purposes and must present a valid medical document.
Belizeans 12 years and above wishing to exit Belize through air, land, or seaports must be fully vaccinated. All unvaccinated persons 5 years and above entering Belize via the airport, land, or seaport, must show proof of a negative rapid or PCR test taken within the last 48 hours or 72 hours, respectively. The Minister also notified that after careful consideration and close monitoring of the country's daily infection rate, his medical response team advised that it was safe for the Ministry of Health to proceed with their plans to remove the remaining restrictions that have been in place for over two years. The gradual return to normalcy commenced a month ago with the lifting of the nightly curfew and the outdoor mask mandate. When asked what's happening with the pandemic, Bernard replied, ''Well, you know that the WHO [World Health Organization] will at some point declare a pandemic [to be] endemic based on situations. In Belize, we have been having a steady decline in numbers, and if you notice those have been hovering between 10 and 20 a day. However, we are also keeping our eyes on what is happening around us, including the emergence of any new variant. In regards to schools, Minister Bernard said that the Ministry of Health will hold back its recommendations for the full reopening of schools at this point. However, based on the present situation he will be recommending that it be done in early August. The Ministry of Health and Wellness will be making a formal announcement in the upcoming days to inform the public of these latest changes.