Belize's Ministry of Health announced that all individuals who have traveled to China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, South Korea, the UK, and Europe within the last 30 days will be prohibited from entering country due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak from Sunday, March 15. Additionally, all Belizean nationals and residents returning to Belize from a country where community spread of the virus is present will be placed under self-isolation upon arrival into the country. All ports of entry to Belize except for cargo vessels have also been closed, with only the Santa Elena border and the Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE) open. As a precautionary measure, the government has urged people to defer all non-essential travel out of the country.
Schools will be suspended for 20 days starting from Friday, March 20, and indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people. Authorities added that they are closely monitoring the situation and will update travel restrictions when necessary.
There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Belize as of Tuesday, March 17. Further international spread of the virus to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.