Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Belize moving to impose stricter COVID-19 measures, laws

Published:Friday | August 7, 2020 | 12:47 PM
Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow - Contributed photo

BELMOPAN, Belize, CMC – The Belize government says it will impose stricter measures including legislative amendment to curb the contraband trade as the country experiences an increase in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health authorities say there are more than 50 active cases as well as community transmission in San Pedro, which is now under lockdown as are three villages in the Orange Walk district for the next 14 days.

A curfew is to be imposed with a limit on social gatherings, the mandatory wearing of masks, and physical distancing.

The curfew will be between 10:00 p.m and 5:00 a.m on weekdays, while on weekends, it will be for five hours beginning at midnight.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, speaking at a news conference on Thursday evening, spoke of the measures to be implemented over the next two weeks.

“Again we will close bars, discotheques, rum shops, and nightclubs countrywide. Casinos are going to be allowed to continue to operate but under the regime that we had instituted before we lifted the last State of Emergency.

“We are going to return to a cap on social gatherings including church attendance. The maximum number of persons allowed to gather socially will be 25 and even with that 25, there is the requirement for social distancing. In terms of public transportation, we repeat, on the buses, there is a limit to seating capacity. There is mandatory use of masks. There are the sanitation protocols.”

Barrow said, “with the maritime modes of transport, we have seen the pictures on social media of people packed together like sardines in the water taxis.

“That, as I said from yesterday, will have to stop and in terms of enforcement, we are not just going to go after passengers who are in breach, we are going to go after the operators of the water taxis.”

Barrow also announced that given the increase in what he termed “border jumpers”, his administration would also be going to Parliament to amend the legislation to curb the contraband hustle. 

He said the full force of the law will come down on anyone caught with contraband goods.

Barrow acknowledged that the draconian laws are meant to discourage the illegal activity.

“Currently, it is three months in the first instance and then a year for a second or subsequent offence. We are going to increase that three month penalty to six months,” he said, adding, “we are going to go to the House and we will make that border jumping an offence. If you are charged with the offence of border jumping you will not ultimately get bail from the magistrate’s court.

“You will have to go to the Supreme Court. Again, as an indication of how absolutely seriously we are treating what has been happening with impunity ever since the lifting of the last state of emergency,” said Barrow.

Belize now has 114 confirmed cases of the virus and two deaths.

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