The Ebola scare experienced yesterday has set the government on a series of responses in capacitating frontline personnel in the Immigration and Health departments. Measures have been set in place and from what we learned in today’s press conference, the response now is more momentous. Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse announced a new stop placed on the issuance of visas for persons who have been to the West African countries where the virus has been detected. The Ministry is also issuing travel bans.


Screen_Shot_2014-10-17_at_8.21.11_PMGodwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“Those countries will be Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and any other country that the ministry thinks has now been affected.  Nigeria is a special case because although it’s a Commonwealth country it requires visas and even though they have declared that they are free we consider the persons traveling from Nigeria a risk.  Sierra Leone, on the other hand, does not require any visa to come to, Sierra Leonean citizens do not visas to enter Belize so we will issue a travel ban on persons coming from Sierra Leone.  Our embassies are being advised immediately, the airlines are being advised of this decision forthwith.  In addition, persons from whatever nationality who have visited that area of West Africa within the last thirty days will not be allowed to land in Belize and the airlines will be advised accordingly.”


The Ministry has also established protocols in regards to handling Cruise Ship arrivals in the country. The original procedures in screening the ship’s manifest and passengers changes, says Minster Hulse.


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“The way we are going to handle the cruise ships, we have established a protocol, as you may or may not know.  There is a team that boards the cruise ship to screen the manifest and the passengers who want to land in Belize and as I understand it, I do have my immigration team here and my C.E.O., I recognize them, as I understand it persons who would travel beyond the tourism village would be the ones who would present themselves to immigration for the necessary clearance to land.  Persons who would remain within the vicinity of the tourism village were only ticked off on the manifest.  Effective immediately, that protocol has changed.  Every single person who will disembark from a cruise ship the passport of such persons will be reviewed by immigration to ensure that no person has been in the high risk area of West Africa within the last thirty days.”


But what about border points? Visitors also enter Belize from other entry points along the country. Hulse says this is also being monitored.


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“The border points are lower risk but we have been discussion some protocol that we will institute which will be similar to those that we’ve had done at the PGIA once it is determined by the ministry of health or the other relevant authorities that the risk there it has increased in any form or fashion, we are looking right now at cruise ships and PGIA because as you know those are international travelers possible coming from those areas but we are monitoring those border points as well.”


Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize

“There are already holding areas at each of the border points so if anybody were to present, that holding area would be used as a kind of temporary isolation chamber until the ministry of health ambulance which is been retrofitted or outfitted in such a way that the air dust, you won’t have the air circulation of air in terms of where the driver is but any person presenting will be held in isolation cell until the ministry of health can transport them to a quarantine center in Belize City, we are also looking at other possibilities for sighting quarantine facilities, we are getting Mennonite houses today to put in various spots.”


And what about persons who travel from the US, specifically those passing through or coming from Texas where the virus has been detected? Hulse says this proves a bit difficult to handle but is nonetheless being monitored as well.


Godwin Hulse – Minister of Immigration

“We will scrutinize the passport of everybody who has travelled within the hot zone areas within the last 30 days and denied them entry; it will be an impossible task to determine whether persons have come in contact with persons who have travelled within that area, that then becomes the worldwide difficulty, however, I will say that there is also a form that has been implemented right a way to question people in terms of health issues, recent travel etc. and that should be some guide, bear in mind that I don’t think and this is a health issue, but I don’t think that people who could be infected or would be infected would set out to deceive themselves, I think they would set out to look for the quickest possible treatment and therefore we have to rely on the individual when he/she responds but I don’t think we could quarantine Texas or any of the United States in terms of that unless of course they determine that that is the area that they need to cordoned off themselves.”


Government has also implemented measures when it comes to dealing with Belizeans who have been to high risk areas or countries and are entering the country. And as we speak on the handling of visitors from abroad, the release from the Carnival Cruise Lines explains that they are too taking measures in the matter. It states that one of its ships visits Ebola affected areas and that “any passengers or crew who have visited or traveled through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea within 21 days of a cruise departure date will be denied boarding.” The Cruise Lines says that all of its guests must submit to rigorous health screening prior to boarding and remains in close contact with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for guidance. The “Carnival Magic” is due to arrive back to base in Galveston, Texas on Sunday October 19 following its 7-day Caribbean cruise.

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