The government of Belize has announced a travel ban on all visitors from West Africa, to help protect citizens and its tourism industry, following an incident where possible Ebola patients from Dallas-Fort Worth were detected on a Carnival Cruise visiting the country. As of October 16, no travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria will be allowed to enter Belize. Speaking at a press conference Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse stated that a ban from travelers from Texas where Ebola has been detected, had been considered but that there would be no practical way to do this. “It would be difficult to isolate one of the states of the United States,” he stated. “But we will scrutinize the passports of any individuals who may have traveled to areas in the U.S. where Ebola has been detected, and act accordingly”. The government has also imposed a travel ban for anyone who has visited West Africa 30 days before trying to enter Belize, be it by air, land or sea.
In the case of cruise ship passengers, all passports will now be carefully checked to see if they have ever traveled to West Africa. Previously, only passengers who wished to proceed beyond the cruise ship tourism villages, would have their passports reviewed.
The Belize Ministry of Health says it is heightening its surveillance at all points of entry, and is now procuring 750 hazmat suits for its hospitals through the Pan American Health Organization. And it is now constructing wooden isolation cells at points of entry, including the international airport in Belize City in the event that an Ebola infected patient is detected on entering Belize.
After Royal Caribbean began to cancel cruises into Belize because of the new and convoluted Belizean Ebola inspection protocols, the government of Belize did a quick backpedal and eased restrictions. The new restrictions had led to an additional hour and a half delay, including having cruise ships come to a dead stop outside Belize territorial waters for inspection, leading to huge fuel bills for the ships, and total chaos for the inland tour business. The process has now been streamlined and passports are no longer being individually hand-checked, but rather checked electronically on the day of arrival after being submitted via email by the cruise line.