Latin America takes steps to counter coronavirus, Brazil's Bolsonaro snubs warnings
Guatemala logged its first fatality from coronavirus on Sunday as nations in South and Central America ramped up measures to contain the infection, with Panama banning entry of non-resident foreigners and Honduras closing its borders to passenger traffic for a week.
The leaders of Argentina and Peru also announced border closures on Sunday to curb coronavirus. Argentina will close its borders for 15 days to non-residents, President Alberto Fernandez said in a televised press conference.
Public and private school classes would also be suspended until March 31, Fernandez said. National parks would be closed.
Argentina tightens travel restrictions
A day earlier, Argentina published a decree establishing a 30-day ban on entry to non-residents who have traveled to a country highly affected by coronavirus in the last 14 days.
The country has also temporarily stopped issuing visas to travellers from the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Britain and many European countries.
Peru suspends air and sea transport
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra said later on Sunday that Peru would also close its borders, suspending air and sea transport. He called on citizens to self-quarantine for 15 days to help slow the infection.
In Guatemala, Health Minister Hugo Monroy told a news conference the dead man was a 85-year-old who had recently returned from Madrid without showing signs of illness.
Doctors confirmed he had the virus early on Sunday, Monroy added. He later died in a private hospital.
Venezuela imposes "collective quarantine"
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday ordered a "collective quarantine" in seven states, including the capital Caracas to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic
Food distribution, health services, transport and security are exempted, Maduro said in a television address to his crisis-devastated nation where the economy had already collapsed long before the pandemic struck.
"The only way to contain the channels of transmission is to enter in a... drastic phase of collective quarantine throughout the country," said Maduro, adding the measures "deserves great social discipline, great self-control" and people should stay at home.
Caracas alone is home to six million people.
This latest measure to combat the pandemic comes after Maduro previously banned flights to and from Europe, Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic. He also suspended school and university classes, and sports events.
Venezuela reported seven new cases of the COVID-19 illness on Sunday, taking its total to 17.
Panama worst affected country in Central America
Panama, which has been the hardest hit in Central America, reported its first coronavirus death earlier this week. Panama's health minister Rosario Turner said the number of confirmed cases in the nation rose to 55 from 43 on Saturday.
From 11.59 p.m on Monday night, only Panamanians and foreign residents would be allowed to enter Panama, security minister Juan Pino said alongside Turner at a news conference.
Panama has ordered communal areas in hotels, discos, bars, and casinos and elsewhere closed, Turner said.
The government has also ordered shops in the country to be shut except supermarkets, pharmacies and medical centers. In addition, Panama has suspended elective surgical procedures and limited hospital visits by outpatients, Turner said.
Honduras imposes strict measures
On Sunday, Honduran police moved people off beaches and out of shops and cafes to enforce an order issued by the government on Saturday to prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez said in a televised address that from one minute before midnight on Sunday, the country's borders would be closed for a week to all traffic, aside from the movement of goods.
All businesses in Honduras with a few exceptions including supermarkets, pharmacies, medical centers, hotels, gas stations and banks would be closed for the time being, Hernandez added.
Costa Rica's government has ordered the closure of all bars and discos as the tally of coronavirus infections in the country rose to 35, the health ministry said on Sunday.
Colombia restricts entry for foreigners
Colombia will block entry to travellers who are not residents or citizens and will close schools and universities from Monday in a bid to control the outbreak of coronavirus, President Ivan Duque said on Sunday.
Colombian citizens and foreign residents who arrive from March 16 will be required to perform an obligatory 14-day period of self isolation, Duque said on Twitter, while educators will start planning for students to study at home.
The Andean country reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 6, and its tally had risen to 34 cases by Sunday.
The government said it would close its border with Venezuela starting Saturday morning, following its earlier declaration of a health emergency, which suspended public gatherings of more than 500 people and blocked cruise ships from docking at its ports.
Brazil's Bolsonaro shrugs off advice
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took selfies with supporters and celebrated the thousands of protestors gathering in major cities on Sunday, just days after he had called for a suspension of the demonstrations due to the spreading coronavirus.
Bolsonaro appeared to shrug off the advice of medical experts suggesting he remain isolated after several members of his delegation to Florida recently tested positive for the virus.
The president tested negative for the virus, as did U.S. President Donald Trump following their meeting, but newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo reported that Bolsonaro's medical team has suggested he remain isolated until early next week.
He will also take another test to rule out all chances that he has the virus, the paper reported on Friday.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
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