The Belize airport reopening is now cancelled until further notice due to a rise in COVID-19 cases says Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
As COVID-19 cases spike in Belize, the August 15 airport reopening plan is now off.
On Wednesday afternoon Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow dropped a bombshell when he announced the postponement of long-awaited airport reopening at a press conference.
Belize cancels its planned August 15 reopening date:https://t.co/Zp8MZty4wA
— CentralAmericaLiving (@VidaAmerica) August 6, 2020
At the press conference, the Prime Minister blamed Belizeans for not following social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
“What’s going on now is a consequence of our own actions,” said Barrow. “From the time the State of Emergency ended, people went haywire, almost.”
He went on to criticize Belizeans for having parties and holding “500-person events.”
Belizeans “must do better” to flatten the curve, he said.
“Are we going to wait until people start dropping like flies before we decide that as a people we’ve got to exhibit the kind of dicipline that this situation requires?”
Despite Barrow’s words, Belize’s COVID-19 numbers are nowhere near as large as elsewhere in Central America.
For a long time during this crisis, as numbers surged in neighboring countries, Belize’s caseload stayed at zero or close to it.
Since early June though, cases have been creeping up, and today Belize counted 53 active cases in total, including 15 new ones today. It must be said, however, that Belize is testing more than ever. Marvin Manzanero, the Director of Health Services confirmed this today.
So far, there have been two COVID-19 fatalities in Belize.
Fifteen more cases of COVID-19 confirmed https://t.co/1jdrI2WbZv
— Breaking Belize News (@belizemedia) August 6, 2020
Barrow announced the August 15 airport reopening date on June 25, when Belize 23 cases of COVID-19.
The reopening was to come with strict protocols, including mandatory COVID-19 tests for tourists before or upon arrival and a limited number of “Gold Standard” hotels where they could stay.
But since then, as cases rose, Barrow’s government has faced mounting criticism from many Belizeans about reopening. It’s fair to say that the reopening plans have divided the country.
So now the question is, when will Belize get back on track and reopen for tourism?
Well, it depends as much on the airlines as COVID-19.
They’re used to this – they’ve been doing the same thing in Costa Rica for months now. They’ll survive. But still, the pushback must sting a little. Especially as Barrow said he’d heard how full the initial flights were.
Right now, according to Barrow, United and Delta Airlines have suspended operations until September 3. So that’s going to be the earliest date that the country reopens. The other airlines that fly into Belize have not yet said anything, although Barrow said that American could not commit to flying Belize at all in the near future.
The wait will be a bit longer than we thought. Belize’s international airport will not reopen on August 15 as planned. To our friends abroad, we will see you a little later, rather than sooner. #StaySafe #Belize https://t.co/W6Q9IcSY5z
— Belize Travel Mag (@BelizeTravelMag) August 5, 2020
The weekly repatriation flights for Belizeans stuck abroad would continue, said Barrow. “But the airport would unequivocally not open on August 15.”
As well as cancelling the airport reopening today, Belize has also postponed the reopening of schools, according to education minister Patrick Faber.
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.