Water Taxi Companies Services to the islands resume

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020


The economy is slowly beginning to open across the country after a significant decrease in cases of COVID-19, and public transportation via water taxi began transporting people to and off Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye on Monday, May 4th. Although the country continues under a State of Emergency, movement has been allowed for essential travel and persons needing to move with a purpose, including stranded individuals needing to head back home. The fact that screening is not mandated at this moment for anyone traveling to Ambergris Caye, however, has several residents concerned. They ask authorities to implement some sort of screening that could filter those that have valid reasons to travel to the islands.
water taxiOn Sunday, May 3rd, a representative in the Ministry of Health (MOH), had announced that any islander stuck on the mainland and wanting to return back home, would need to prove to be an island resident before being allowed to board any vessel. Everyone must wear a face mask and practice social distancing. On Monday morning, witnesses observed the first crowds arriving on Ambergris Caye completely disregarding social distancing protocols. There seemed to be no proper organization or enforcement for passengers to follow nationally mandated precautions.


Images of a crowd at the Municipal Dock reached the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, who sent out a message to the water taxi companies and those traveling via his Facebook page. ‘The situation in San Pedro with persons trying to leave on the water ferry is very unhealthy. The operators of these water ferries are hereby being reminded that they must put protocols in place to ensure their customers maintain social distancing. The customers, on the other hand, must ensure they adhere to the measures of social distancing and wearing of masks. Failure on the part of operators and customers to adhere to these requirements is a clear violation of the law. Persons found in breach will be arrested and recommendations will be made to stop the water ferry from running. The safety and health of the people must always be paramount,’ read Williams’ message. 

Social distancing enforced, but verification of travel reasons still in question

After the first boats of the day, and with the supervision of members of the Belize Coast Guard, San Pedro Police and Health Department, the process of persons boarding and getting off the boats was more organized. Passengers had to have a mask on, hand sanitation was provided and they were then directed to the ticket booth one at a time. Those arriving at the island were allowed to disembark in groups of threes to avoid congestion on the dock and maintain the required six feet apart.

water taxiHowever, a couple of passengers shared with The San Pedro Sun that they were not asked the purpose of their trip to the island. MOH is not dealing with the screenings at this moment, thus water taxi companies are expected to be responsible for ensuring passengers’ reasons for travel to the islands. That passenger must prove that he or she is an essential worker, has a hotel reservation or is a permanent resident on the islands and is returning home.

Currently San Pedro Belize Express is making four runs to the islands from Belize City, while Thunderbolt Water Taxi, travels from Corozal Town to Ambergris Caye at 7AM and its return run is at 3PM.

Belize continues on its journey to recovery, with only two active cases remaining out of 18 confirmed COVID-19 patients. As such, the government is slowly opening the economy within the country, but Belizeans are still asked to take all necessary precautions as the deadly remains a threat. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in our immediate neighboring countries of Guatemala and Mexico, Belizeans are reminded to stay at home, travel only if needed, and practice proper hygiene and social distancing.


 

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