With 133 cases, San Pedro Town becomes epicenter of coronavirus in Belize
Wednesday, August 12th, 2020
Activities in San Pedro Town continue to slow down as more and more cases of COVID-19 are registered on Ambergris Caye. With 133 active cases so far, the island is the epicenter of coronavirus in Belize, and is currently on a 14-day lockdown. With the possibilities of an extended mandatory quarantine looming, many are concerned about their livelihood and the continued spread of the disease. The business sector is feeling the pinch once again, but despite the uncertainty, are trying to survive while adhering to safety and health guidelines to provide essential services.
On Wednesday, August 12th, 40 additional cases were confirmed, just after 31 had been confirmed the day before. These confirmed cases take the tally up to 133 total cases, and unofficially makes the town the epicenter of coronavirus. None of these cases have required hospitalization, but this rapid increase in numbers has practically ground life to a halt in town. Traffic on the streets has been minimized and any movement within downtown is related to essential needs, including wholesalers delivering products to some of the businesses still operating. Many stores and the few open restaurants have been enforcing strict regulations to safeguard their staff and customers.
A health crisis on the island
The economy on the island depended heavily on the tourism industry, and that is now non-existent. Tour operator Selvin Sealey says he understands the lockdown, but believes an extended quarantine could further affect residents. “A lot of people on the island have to pay rent, utility bill; who will pay it?” he questioned. “The government needs to look into these things, we need assistance in San Pedro for our livelihood, because a lot of people do not have a job or money, and bills are piling up.” Sealey is remaining optimistic that the island will overcome, but is also concerned about the capacity of the country’s health services.
Stores and Restaurants
Many stores and supermarkets are open throughout the day, closing their doors before 8PM when the lockdown’s curfew begins. As required by the quarantine regulations, stores are enforcing the washing of hands at temporary sinks outside the establishment and the wearing of masks while inside. Some of these stores have markings on the floor to keep customers at a safe distance from each other. No more than four persons are allowed in the shops at any given time. According to store owners, the establishment is constantly sanitized throughout the day and at closing time.
Other businesses like pharmacies, have installed barriers around their counters and are only allowing two persons inside their place of business.
Some restaurants are closing down in San Pedro, and the few that are still open are also adhering to strict guidelines. The San Pedro Sun visited Caliente Restaurant on the beach and they shared the safety measures they are implementing. According to them, no customers are allowed inside the restaurant. Food can be ordered via their social media account or by calling the restaurant. Customers have the option to pick-up the food at the restaurant or they can have it delivered to their homes. Of importance to note is all monies collected throughout the day is washed and once dried, it is used as change for customers. Like in stores, the wearing of masks and social distancing is mandatory, and proper sanitation throughout the day is conducted.
Message from Area Representative Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr.
Heredia spoke to The San Pedro Sun, who acknowledged that the situation seems out of control, and as such, he is appealing to all islanders. “Let us take this [disease] seriously, as it can impact livelihoods and the economy of our country. I ask everyone to be conscious that this is nothing to play with,” said Heredia. “Let’s take a minute and reflect, stop the finger-pointing, the negativity, there is not a soul in this country or island that would like to see anyone of its relatives infected or dying.” Heredia asked San Pedro Townspeople to stay together and look after the sick to effectively combat the epidemic on the island. He also said that in the coming days, he will be looking into the issue of overcrowding in the homes of infected persons. Many of them allegedly live in one-bedroom apartments along with several relatives, with no options to quarantine alone.
Despite the title of ‘epicenter’, San Pedro Town is famous for being a close-knit community, and islanders are hopeful to get through this hard-hitting second wave. Members of the business community stated that they will continue working hard to be able to provide their services, helping their staff and getting involved as much as they can to guide the island safely out of this crisis. They wish the sick a speedy recovery and encourage the community to continue adhering to the safety and health protocols established by the government.
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