The Government of Belize will be opening its borders to begin the repatriation of Belizeans who have been unable to return home after they were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking on the logistics of how the process will work was Ambassador Lou-Anne Burns Martinez, CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She appeared on the Government’s Press Office online program ‘Ask the Experts,’ on Wednesday, May 20.
Ambassador Martinez explained that the first step that is required is for persons to fill out a detailed application form that is available at https://www.covid19.bz/repatriation-response-form/. Those applications will be reviewed by the Ministry of Health, Foreign Affairs and final approval will be granted by the Ministry of National Security. According to the ambassador, persons who have the greatest need will be addressed first. Persons who are returning home because they have been outside of Belize longer than anticipated and want to return to their normal residence are among those being allowed. As that is done, the review process will also factor where the persons are coming from as well as look at their health history because some who wish to return home have already been infected and recovered from COVID-19.
Ambassador Martinez notes that there are persons who will wish to return by sea, air and land and the application form is one that will be thorough. The idea is to ensure that the numbers of persons coming in do so in as safe a manner as possible. The numbers of persons returning will be, ‘low and manageable,” and as such she asked for patience as the process takes place. She noted that persons coming in will have to bear the expense of being placed on quarantine which for the moment, at the lowest rate is at $110 per night.
While persons are expected to pay for their quarantining, Martinez explained that there may be persons who simply cannot afford to return home as the quarantine will take place inside hotel rooms. This discomfort, she says, has to be measured against the cost of a human life and as such self-quarantining at personal homes or apartments will be very limited. The history of this has proven that it puts the greater population at risk as some who returned home in the past did not adhere to the process. Consideration will however be given to persons who have chronic illnesses and who, if placed outside of a home setting, put them at greater risk. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. There will also be consideration for quarantining more than one person in a location. This will apply when persons are in need of a caretaker.