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COVID-19 testing availability for travelers on Ambergris Caye

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Stakeholders and travelers are left with many questions following the announcement that as of January 26, 2021, the United States of America (USA) Center for Disease Control (CDC) will require all international air travelers entering that country, including U.S. citizens, to present negative COVID-19 test results prior traveling. In Belize, one of the first concerns was if the process would only accept PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) or rapid antigen testing. A reliable source told The San Pedro Sun that a rapid antigen test would qualify for this requirement. Persons traveling from San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, can get their rapid test results from either a private health center or the Mar de Tumbo Flu Clinic run by the local health department.

covid-19 testing ambergris caye
Medical personnel swab locals during a rapid testing drive, January 8, 2021

A PCR test, which takes around three days to produce results, was first thought to be the only accepted test. However, a rapid antigen test, which yields results in less than an hour, will qualify.

Where can you get tested on Ambergris Caye?

On Ambergris Caye, there are three private health centers, along with the government-aided health facility, that are providing test services. The private clinics only provide rapid antigen testing. One of those health centers is Belize Medical Associates, located north of San Pedro at Grand Caribe. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 226-2262. The price of the test is BZ$250.

Ambergris Hopes Medical Clinic on Pescador Drive offers rapid testing as well, no appointment necessary. The price is BZ$190, and the clinic is open 8AM to 5PM.

San Carlos Health Clinic on Pescador Drive also offers rapid testing for a fee of BZ$230. Appointments are required, and these can be made by calling 226-2918.

The rapid antigen testing with the government-assisted clinic via the Mar de Tumbo flu clinic costs BZ$100. The clinic, located south of downtown San Pedro, opens 8AM to 4PM during the week. This clinic does swabs for PCR tests, which are processed in Belize City. However, to get the services to travel from this government-run flu clinic, an email request must be directed first to the Ministry of Health and Wellness at [email protected]. The email should include information about the request, which includes travel information.

According to the CDC, the testing must be done within three calendar days of the United States journey, particularly if the traveller has connecting flights. Passengers must show proof of test results before boarding their flights. As an alternative, travelers who have recovered from COVID-19 can show written or electronic documentation from a licensed health care provider stating the passenger is cleared to travel. Travelers vaccinated against the virus are not exempt and will be required to be tested before traveling.

Belize Tourism Board weighs in

Americans make up approximately 70% of travelers to Belize; thus, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) was prompt to address the situation regarding testing capabilities. According to the BTB, after consulting with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, have confirmed that testing will be expanded and made available to all passengers departing Belize for the United States. They added that further details of this plan, including cost and testing locations across the country, were being determined.

In the meantime, anyone with intentions to travel to Belize is encouraged to proceed with their travel plans.

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