Chetumal, Q.R. — A line kilometers long formed on the Mexico side of the Chactemal bridge as motorists waited for it to open. On Monday, the Belize Free Zone reopened to Mexicans after being shut for nearly 10 months due to the pandemic.
A quarantine and sanitation centre was set up along the highway where people were allowed to enter only with a vehicle. Before the pandemic, many arrived on foot after taking a bus to the border.
Daniel Torres Mora, director of the Cámara de Comercio de la Zona Libre, said that the influx was much greater than they expected, adding that the waiting time of more than half-an-hour was regrettable, however, sanitary protocols are necessary.
On their first day, Torres Mora said around 3,000 people arrived, of which they applied 382 rapid tests and 72 PCR tests to those wanting to enter. All 382 of the rapid tests were negative. They continue to wait for the results of the PCR tests.
Approximately 70 percent of the stores in the Belize Free Zone opened for the February 1 border reopening to Mexico. All shops, many of which are owned by Mexican businessmen, have a limited maximum capacity.
Torres Mora added that a record of all visitors is being kept in order to verify everyone who enters, also leaves. The Belize Free Zone is only accessible via the new Chactemal bridge (aduana nueva). The previous entrance bridge, now the old bridge, is the exit. Vehicles are permitted from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Belize time or 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Quintana Roo time.
The border between Mexico and Belize, however, remains closed, since visitor access is only to the commercial area.