Land borders to reopen at the end of May; sea entry remain closed
Friday, May 21st, 2021
After more than a year, the Government of Belize will reopen its land borders to welcome foreign tourists. The anticipated reopening will occur in a phased approach, and tourists must be pre-booked with a Gold Standard hotel. The western border with Guatemala and the northern border with Mexico set to reopen on May 31st, while the sea borders in Punta Gorda Town and San Pedro Town will start operating at a different date to be announced.
The Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations (MTDR) indicated that tourists are required to present proof of a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before arrival in Belize or a rapid antigen test approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) and taken within 24 hours before arrival in Belize. The ministry also advised all tourists, including those who provide proof of full Covid-19 immunization, may be required to submit to testing at their expense, at the discretion of the MOHW. It was made clear that foreign travellers testing positive for Covid-19 will be denied entry. The land borders will open from 8AM to 4PM for the time being. Although only foreign visitors are being allowed to enter the country, Belizeans or other travellers with special permission approved by the government will be allowed to leave the country.
Sea entry points yet to open
The other entry points to Belize include the seaport in Punta Gorda Town connecting Belizeans with Honduras and Guatemala. The other is between San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, and Chetumal, Mexico. According to MTDR, these ports of entry will open in phase one, but a date yet to be announced. In the second phase of the borders’ reopening, foreign tourists and visitors of friends, family, and relatives will enter the country. The last and third phase will see a full reopening.
The government is reopening these borders considering the health risks; thus, it will implement set regulations known as Standard Operation Procedures and the entry points. These procedures will follow strict health and safety protocols, which have been successfully implemented at the Philip Goldson International Airport. The checks will include health and temperature screening, physical distancing, and sanitizing. Faces mask will remain mandatory while in public areas, and foreign visitors are asked to abide by these rules.
Implementing these regulations will be the responsibility of all regulatory and management agencies at the respective ports of entry, including the MOHW, Department of Immigration and Nationality, Customs and Excise Department, Belize Agricultural Health Authority, Belize Police Department and the Belize Tourism Board.
The reopening of these borders was hinted at a meeting on April 20th in San Pedro Town between the Minister of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, the Honourable Andre Perez, Mayor of San Pedro, and Chairlady of Caye Caulker and stakeholders. Perez indicated that tourism is one of the immediate responses to recovering Belize’s economy post-COVID-19. For San Pedro and Caye Caulker, the soon reopening of the sea borders brings much relief as many tourists reach the islands via the ferry services from Chetumal, Mexico. With the reopening of the land and sea borders with Mexico, the boat service from Ambergris Caye is expected to resume.
Water taxi stakeholders recalled that there was daily service between the cayes and Chetumal when the Belize-Mexico border was open. According to them, the route was lucrative, with almost 100% of their passengers being visitors. This influx of travelers positively benefits businesses in Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, which highly rely on foreign tourism.
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