Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Despite an unfortunate arrest in Caye Caulker; tourist still loves Belize

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A female American tourist known as Mrs. Cher filmed a video message thanking Belizeans for their warm hospitality and support following an unfortunate incident on Saturday, January 23rd.

 

Cher Urbina was arrested in Caye Caulker for allegedly violating one of the current COVID-19 rules – ‘failure to wear a mask in a public place properly.’ The incident was videotaped and went viral on social media. Although Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams directed her release from custody, many fear the incident could damage the fragile industry. Despite the circumstances, she travelled to San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, where she was met yesterday, by Area Representative of Belize Rural South (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker) the Honourable Andre Perez.

Hon. Perez, accompanied by his wife, made the trip north of San Pedro to meet with Urbina and her husband at Bella Vista Resort/Aji Restaurant and expressed their sincere apologies for the unfortunate event. “I reached out to her and explained all the good things we are doing as a new administration as we bring about change and reform in the police department. She did acknowledge that despite the incident, she is still able to see all the good things our country has to offer and in particular, the people,” Hon. Perez shared.  Urbina was grateful and appreciated the gesture, Hon. Perez made on behalf of the Belizean people and government.

Other businesses on Ambergris Caye put out the welcome mat for Urbina and her family, showing her true island hospitality. She stated that although the police experience was shocking, she reassured everyone that her family is still committed to exploring investment opportunities in Belize. She also wants to establish new and stronger bonds with Belizeans.

Current COVID-19 regulations

Belize is open to tourism, but due to the current pandemic, there are regulations to safeguard Belizeans and visitors alike. Legislation introduced in December 2020 not only included a new curfew, limited inter-district travel in northern districts on the mainland, and implemented restrictions on public transportation capacity and sale of alcohol but also reiterated the mandated mask-wearing law when in a public space.

Face masks are not required in a private residency, exercising, swimming, or seated at a restaurant in front of a meal. Nor are they required when driving alone or in the company of members of the same household in an enclosed vehicle, except golf carts or motorbikes. There is a fine of $500 for breaching this regulation.

According to ComPol Williams, if someone is eating or taking a sip of water and not near others, it can be allowed. As seen in the video, Cher told the officers that she lowered her mask to eat a chicken wing she had in her hand.

During an interview with the media, ComPol explained that the current law does not make provisions for wearing a mask when eating or drinking in public. “However, as a matter of our internal practice, we have advised our officers that if a person is eating or drinking in public or any public space, then we must exercise our discretion, and so it was in that light that I had said the officers may have overreacted and could have used their discretion,” he said.

 

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