Thursday, October 16, 2014

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While other countries in the Central American and the Caribbean regions are taking proactive measures in anticipation of the arrival of the dreaded Ebola virus to their shores – it seems that Belize is no where near prepared. Panic spread today when word got out that a patient on board the Carnival Magic cruise ship displayed symptoms of Ebola.

The Carnival Magic left Galveston Texas on Sunday, October 12th and arrived in Mahogany Bay Honduras on Wednesday, October 15th. It arrived in Belize on Thursday morning.

It is not known what transpired on board the Carnival Magic but NBZLIVE was reliably informed by a source from the Fort Street Cruise Terminal that an order came from the terminal management in the evening that the terminal was being cordoned off in order to facilitate the transportation of the patient to the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) to be flown out of Belize. Employees were ordered to evacuate immediately.

Word went out of the patient’s suspected illness to US Embassy in Belize who requested that the patient be transported to the PGIA to he flown out of Belize. Attempts were made to do just that however those efforts were thwarted by Belizean customs and immigration agents who intercepted the tender that was transporting the patient to mainland.

After much back and forth between the Government of Belize and the US Embassy in Belize and the Ministry of Health, the patient’s travel documents were returned and the patient was returned to the ship and the Carnival Magic was escorted out of Belize’s waters by Belize Coast Guard.

The Government of Belize issued this release late on Thursday evening.

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According to a local News 5 report, a Belizean pilot was among the passengers on the ship. Unconfirmed report is that twenty passengers abandoned ship and flew back to the United States via the PGIA.

The Carnival Magic had 3652 passengers with a total 4633 persons on board.

Thursday’s scare exposed Belize’s unpreparedness to handle this crisis or any crisis at all. Just last week, Tuesday, October 7th, Director of Health Services told the nation that the likelihood of Ebola arriving in Belize is minimal.

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“It’s low risk but we take it seriously because any one case could lead to fatality,” Pitts told the nation last week.

Pitts, clearly ignorant of the facts on the current outbreak, said that Belize’s Ministry of Health is aware of person who have travelled in and out of Nigeria. Nigeria is not among the hardest hit countries in Africa. In fact on Thursday a news report in the international press declared Nigeria Ebola-free. The affected countries in West Africa are Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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At the end of that press briefing Belize’s leading television news station, Channel 7, concluded that “the main takeaways from that press conference is that the Ministry of Health does not a.) have any personnel posted at the four major land and sea entry points to make assessments of the medical state of visitors; and b.) does not know how many visitors arrive from countries that might be considered Ebola risk zones. And that’s because there is a breakdown in interagency communications with the Department of Immigration.

Presently, there is also no suitable isolation ward for a case of Ebola, but the Ministry says that in the case of an Ebola emergency, it would likely house an infected person in a health facility outside the KHMH.” What health facility outside the KHMH they were referring to is unknown.

Thursday’s scare crystallized Belize’s lack of preparedness and the potential for a contagion with fatal implications for Belizeans and Belize’s tourism product.
END.