BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — The United States says it is disappointed that Belize had refused a couple, including a woman suspected of having the Ebola virus, from disembarking from a cruise ship and using the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) to be flown back to the United States.
“…we’re disappointed by this. We think it could have been handled differently. Decisions like these need to be made based on information and science and not fear, even though we know this is a very serious disease, serious threat,” said Marie Harf, US State Department deputy spokesperson.
“The ship is on its way back to Galveston, Texas right now. It is expected to dock on Sunday and obviously we’ll be giving any care to this individual that is needed and we’ll keep having the conversations with countries if something like this arises again,” she added.
But Prime Minister Dean Barrow held on to his administration’s position that he would not be putting the lives of Belizeans at risk.
“I stuck to my line which was that in the circumstances we couldn’t take any chances,” he said, noting that US Secretary of State John Kerry had also urged his administration to rethink its position.
“He did ask whether I would consider, whether I would explore the possibility of their sending a helicopter that would land on the deck of the cruise ship and then take the two passengers straight across to the PGIA.
“In other words he thought that an option could be explored that would mean that no Belizean would come into any kind of contact with these passengers. I said well have your people tell us what would be the logistics of that.”
Barrow said that the option was not feasible because Belizean nationals would still be engaged and adding that in the circumstances he was convinced that his original position would remain “because I could not let the circumstances be possible to do what the Americans were asking without exposing some Belizeans to some degree of risk”.
The unidentified woman is a known lab technician who may have had contact with fluids from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, who died earlier this month after contracting the virus for which there is no known cure. She had been exposed to his body for at least 18 days.
The woman and her companion were on the cruise ship, Carnival Magic that sailed into Belize Thursday night. They had allowed themselves to be isolated while on the cruise.
A number of Caribbean countries have since banned nationals from Libera, Sierra Leone and Guinea from visiting their shores.