PGIA set to reopen in August


It has been months of uncertainty surrounding the resumption of services at the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) due to the still looming threat of COVID-19. While we are managing to keep control of the situation in country, especially compared to our regional counterparts, experts saw it best to keep the airport closed indefinitely. That changed on Friday when the Prime Minister of Belize, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, made an announcement via a press conference. He stated that the PGIA would be reopened on August 15.
There are a number of phases and procedures to be done throughout the coming weeks. These health and safety procedures will be implemented to ensure there is containment in the rise in the number of imported cases of COVID-19. To that end, returning Belizeans as well as other persons entering through the PGIA will be tested for the viral diseases prior to or on their arrival. If they are able to complete the test before arriving at the airport, and are able to produce a negative result, they will be directed to the fast lane. For persons who cannot provide the results of a COVID-19 PCR test, completed within 72-hours of their arrival into the country, they must take a rapid test in country and will incur the cost of that test. For the passengers who test positive for the virus, they will be placed in a mandatory 14-day quarantine to be, again, at the expense of the traveler.
Other features of the partial opening of the tourism industry will include minimum contact with both immigration and customs personnel. The government will acquire luggage X-ray machines and luggage will be disinfected after it is removed from the airplane. Systems will also be put in place to have tourists picked up by trained personnel and taken directly to their all-inclusive destinations in country. This is to minimize interactions with the general public.
Additionally, passengers arriving in Belize will be required to download the Belize Health app, a new mobile application which will track their movement. This will be done in order for the Ministry of Health and the Belize Tourism Board to do contact tracing if the need arises.
The announcement of the reopening date has caused a number of concerns from our Belizean citizenry. PM Barrow, however, has said that it was a difficult task which included intense debating and consideration to reopen the airport for that date. With the resurgence of the virus in several states in the United States of America, our greatest source market for tourism, experts were at first weary of reopening the airport. Considering that there is no end to these troubles in the near future, conversely, the decision was made to reopen. “In the circumstances, and with the experts confirming that no end to this sea of corona troubles is in sight, it seemed to us futile that waiting any longer would provide a more favorable launching pad for our tourism restart,” PM Barrow said. “We decided that any further delay would likely gain us nothing from a safety standpoint.”