Thursday, June 20, 2024

Minister of Health exclusively authorised to approve ‘Special Permission’ for hosting large gatherings

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While the recent regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 92 state that gatherings of more than ten persons are prohibited, social gatherings have reportedly far exceeded this limit on the island. In some cases, islanders have hosted large private wedding receptions and birthday parties, among other events, claiming they have ‘special permission’ for the said events. The Minister of Health and Wellness must sign this special permit. If not, anyone hosting a gathering larger than ten people without this written permission is breaking the law and should be reported to the police.

In the case of gatherings, the recent SI speaks specifically of funerals. Ten members of the immediate family, along with an officiant and essential mortuary staff. This gathering (funeral) should not exceed an hour, taking place at the cemetery. This section of the SI also prohibits wakes or repasses. With the Delta variant identified in Belize and the rate of infections increasing, approval of other social gatherings is unlikely.

The process to obtain a ‘special permit’ begins with people on the island getting in touch with the police and health department representatives. If the request is considered legitimate, it is forwarded to the Minister of Health for his approval. The Ministry of Health and Wellness head is the only authority to grant ‘special permission’ at his discretion.

Medical personnel on the island maintain that the pandemic should be paramount over social gatherings. They have witnessed death as patients lose their battle against COVID-19. A large social event can easily result in spreading the virus beyond those who attended. The message is that no public gathering is more important than tackling the surge of COVID-19 cases and saving lives.

The number of infections countrywide is nearing 1,000. Belize is currently experiencing a third wave of the pandemic with a surge in COVID-19 cases. The amount of people dying from the virus is increasing, and currently, the death toll stands at 355. COVID-19 is far from gone; the public is asked to get vaccinated and continue following safety measures, wearing face masks in public places, washing hands, and observing social distancing.

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