Important notes on recent COVID-19 regulations
Thursday, December 24th, 2020
The current new Statutory Instrument (SI) regarding the COVID-19 regulations came into effect on Sunday, December 20th, and will remain in effect until further notice. The SI introduced a new curfew and limits inter-district travel, particularly from the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. There is also a restriction on public transportation capacity by 50%, the sale of alcohol, and new fines for employers and employees for violations against the regulations.
These new regulations were approved to reduce the number of infections, given the fact that during the Christmas season, people tend to engage in large gatherings.
A curfew will be in place from 8PM to 5AM for adults and 6PM to 5AM for persons 16 and younger. Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Honourable Kareem Musa said that exceptions would be made for essential workers in possession of a badge from his ministry. Anyone breaching this regulation will be fine $500.
Essential Services who can move during the curfew
Members of the security forces, Customs and Excise Department, and the Department of Immigration Services who are on duty are permitted along with frontline workers such as health care providers and those in duty working for the Ministry of Health.
Restrictions on sales of alcohol and gatherings
No alcohol can be sold between the hours of 6PM to 7AM. Exceptions will be made for restaurants located within a hotel. However, there was no confirmation if liquor sales will be limited to hotel guests or if outsiders can access such service.
PENALTIES for Employers and Businesses
Every employer of a business, office, or establishment who contravenes these regulations commits an offense and may be liable to $5,000.00.
Public Transportation and Restaurants: Buses and Water Taxi Companies can only carry 50% capacity and must continue to sanitize and follow face mask protocols. As per safety measures, six feet must be maintained with visible markers in place. Restaurants can open for take-out, and only those with open-air seating can provide dine-ins reaching 50% capacity, including customers and staff members. In the case of bigger department stores, Justice of Peace will be assigned to ensure that safety regulations are maintained within the store. Business owners are expected to carry JP’s cost, and these payments will be made to the JP’s Association.
Corozal and Orange Walk Districts RESTRICTION on Cross-District/ Inter/Outer-District Movement
No person shall move across the Corozal District or Orange Walk District boundaries, including movement between these two districts. The only persons allowed to move across these districts will be only to go to and from work, conduct business, operations, food distribution, a medical emergency, tourism by foreign tourists on tours, or purchasing essential supplies, such as food, medication, or water.
No gatherings and certain establishments to remain closed
The new regulations called for no private gatherings. Households may have visitors, as long as the number of persons at the household at any one time does not exceed ten. This authorized number also applies to church services, weddings, and funerals. All illegal congregations exceeding this number or parties can be reported to the newly installed hotline: 0-800-PARTIES or 0-800-727-8432 for both BTL and Smart users.
Of note is that contact sports remain disallowed. People are discouraged from engaging in activities like football or basketball.
Exercise and type of Sports allowed
Jogging, running, walking, or cycling is allowed. Social distancing of a minimum of six feet must be maintained. While cycling, no person can ride two abreast. There is no requirement for the use of face masks while exercising.
The only sports allowed are tennis, golf, table tennis, volleyball, and other non-contact sport. As long as these sports are held in an approved sporting facility, players are exempted from practicing social distancing and wearing a face mask. Failure to follow these regulations can end up in a $500 fine.
Businesses not allowed to open, and conditions for other businesses
As has been the case for months, bars, nightclubs, gyms, and gaming establishments remain closed. Non-essential businesses are expected to put their employees on a shift system, and non-essential workers are expected to work from home. Essential services are considered those under health, tourism, banking, law enforcement, agriculture, and food.
Mandatory use of Face Masks
The use of facemasks is mandatory in any public or private place. Every business owner or manager must not allow entry to any person, not wearing a face mask or face covering. Business owners can determine the types of face masks or face coverings permissible for entry into their business, office, or establishment.
Face masks not required when:
In your private residency, exercising, or swimming. When driving alone or in company of members of the same household in an enclosed vehicle, except golf carts, or motorbikes. There will be a fine of $500 for breaching this regulation.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness provided an update on the COVID-19 vaccine. It is estimated that by March 2021, Belize will receive 238,000 vaccines, enough to cover 30% of the population based on the two required vaccinations per person. The vaccine will be obtained through the COVAX (GAVI alliance) and will be given to the most vulnerable members of the Belizean population.
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