Utila Municipality 2020-09-08

NB: The audio is very difficult to make out, there’s a lot of background noise and the video stalls quite a bit (which cuts out entire sections).

Update from municipality leaders: Video

Mixed Spanish and English. English 3:30-18:00, 21:00-23:30, 27:56-31:20, 33:00-40:45, 43:30-45:10, 55:30-end

I’ve grouped discussion to try to provide some clarity and structure.

Reopening

The municipality is not able to force people to do a rapid test to enter the island. Roatan has also fought for this and central government isn’t permitting it for them either. In order to provide some protection, people will be asked if they have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 when they enter the island.

There has been work to try and protect the island via municipal ordinances. These ordinances planned to open the island to tourists on 2020-10-01. Unfortunately, they have been overridden by Tegucigalpa. The navy police (the highest police authority on the island) were ordered to take control of the dock and remove anyone (including municipal police) who attempts to block the dock.

All businesses bringing people over to work are required to provide a police record and a job letter detailing where the person will be working.

The ferry can carry 35% of their normal passenger load, which means up to 100 people per trip coming to Utila.

Travelling Off Island

If you want to go to La Ceiba and return, you can. The requirements are that you have a ticket and are wearing a mask.

The municipality asks that everyone doing so also take a rapid test before coming back in order to limit the spread.

COVID-19 Spread

The Keys is where most of the cases are appearing. One patient is currently recovering but there have been several deaths.

Utila is currently doing relatively well on COVID-19 infections, one of the lowest per capita rates in the world. However, now that the borders are open, it’s going to be hard to control.

Every place that has reopened, there’s a new wave of COVID-19 cases. Utila is also still not yet at the peak from the first wave. The doctors are doing their best, but they’re working long shifts and there aren’t very many of them.

It is now even more important to wear masks properly, keep 2 meters distance and avoid social gatherings.

Concerns

There is a concern that the ferry will bring people over who are looking for work, who do not have the money to look after themselves and this will be an extra load on the island when they get sick or need food.

The lack of work for migrant workers is why the original aim was to just open up to residents. A lot of work has been done lately removing criminals, over 40 removed in the last few months, so the island is a lot safer. This may be undone due to the limits of the municipalities authority to limit people entering Utila.

A concern was expressed about the message that not requiring a rapid test sends. There is some worry that tourists will come and see the lack of a rapid test as an indicator that they don’t have to follow biosecurity measures. This would be dangerous for them and for the community.

Given that doctors are already working around the clock and there is no hospital, there is a lot of concern that reopening will create a spike in cases that is difficult for Utila to manage.

As people are coming in, we have to be much more careful. Everyone needs to wear masks and avoid social gatherings.