Covid Quarantine in Belize

Its April 28th. We are at the beginning of week 6 since the borders closed. It is a strange new world. A little recap to remember this moment in time…

The beginning of the end here was the weekend of March 14th. We spent a spontaneous weekend on the island of Bread & Butter with another family. The other family lives in Belmopan area and their teenage sons love to spear fish, so they invited us to join them for a weekend of fishing, snorkeling and just being lazy. We hoped to be fed by the kids fishing all weekend long, and that indeed happened.

While we were on the island we had spotty internet service, but it seemed like the US was just starting to erupt with panic regarding the virus. SXSW had cancelled the week prior, the NBA was cancelling games and Broadway was closed down. I was trying to read articles about the crisis while on the island, but it was pretty hard to get any data. So, we enjoyed our time away. Once we returned to the resort, we were in our last week before closing. Even though we didn’t know it.

Belize continued to have no cases of Covid-19 at that point and although the rest of the world was panicing, it was hard to understand what was media hype and what was real. We continued to encourage our guests to come on their vacation to Belize but some guests were starting to cancel. We started getting phone calls and emails asking if their reservations were cancelled and whether our border would be closing. Belize was starting to close its borders to neighboring countries but the international airport remained open. The kids were still going to school, though a public awareness campaign had started, reminding everyone to wash their hands and the kids were advised not to drink from the pipe (the outdoor faucet) at school.

At the end of the week (around March 19th) we learned that the airport would be closing on Monday March 23rd. We had 2 groups of guests staying with us for a total of 12 people. They all scrambled and got on the phone to secure their flights for the 23rd or before. For one of our guests — a family of 8, we were trying to schedule their tours back to back in a period of 4 days instead of 7. As I remember, there was going to be snorkeling, ziplining and going on an evening boat tour all in one day. But even the zipline operation closed down before the airport, so we couldn’t send them on that.

After all of our guests left, we had the staff work one day as a close up day. We covered the hotel room furniture with sheets, put all the outdoor seating indoors, divided up the kitchen perishables and cleaned up one last time. We also drained the pool. Then we had a small farewell at the end of the dock with some beer and rum.

Not knowing how long we would be closed, it was a pretty weird day.

School closed the same day the airports closed, so after March 23rd, the kids were home from school and we basically had the whole resort to ourselves. There still was no change in rules from the Government. Although school was cancelled, we thought it might resume after the regular spring break which would be a total of 4 weeks off.

Then we started to get the reports of positive cases for Covid-19 in Belize. Even when the airport closed, we hadn’t has a single case of Covid in Belize. But, obviously it was here. Over the past month we’ve had a total of 18 cases of Covid-19 in Belize. Two people have died, the rest have recovered.

The Government of Belize (GOB) declared a state of emergency and released a Statutory Instrument (SI) just before April 1, declaring a curfew and that people should remain in their homes except for essential needs like groceries and medical. And no one leave their home between 8pm and 5am.

Between April 1 and today there have been a number of Statutory Instruments released, increasing the restrictions on our movements in response to the Covid cases. When we got our first case it was clear the person had been traveling outside of the country. Second case was related to first case. But by the 3rd or 4th case, it became clear that the virus was being spread within Belize by internal travel and social interactions. Thus started a series of restrictions. No travel between districts, no delivery for restaurants; only take out. No gatherings, no church services in person. Masks worn at all times when you are not at home. Exercise only permitted between 5am and 8am. No swimming in the sea or rivers.

The no swimming rule has been a tough one for everyone. May is one of our hottest months. It becomes very hot and humid in Belize in May, leading up to June when we expect some relief and rainfall.

This May has seemed longer and hotter than ever. With the stay at home orders…no work and no play, the days drag by. And, it is mango season which doubles as doctor fly season. The doctor flies have been numerous and relentless! These little biters seem hungrier than ever, missing their tourists more than even Ruger does (if that is possible).

So we wait. Both Hopkins and Sittee River Village have set up food banks for villagers in need of help. The community has pulled together to support restaurants when they are open and the 5am-8am exercise time has turned into social time. We can’t really be social with the masks and the 6-feet social distancing. But, we can say hello how are you, and feel somewhat less alone, knowing we are all going through the same thing together.