Paraguay closes borders, LatAm's second-largest airline grounds planes

Montevideo (AFP) –


Paraguay closed its borders until the end of the week while Latin America's second-largest airline grounded its commercial services on Tuesday.

The Galapagos Islands also recorded their first cases of the new coronavirus and Mexico upped its outbreak response as Latin American countries continued to roll out measures to contain the COVID-19 disease.

- Paraguay

President Mario Abdo Benitez closed the country's borders until Sunday following a second death from COVID-19.

"People can only leave, not enter," said Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo, adding that Paraguayans and residents were exempt but would face quarantine in military barracks upon return.

Commercial airlines will not be allowed to land at Paraguayan airports during the timeframe.

"It's a week of sacrifice, a tough week," said Acevedo.

- Colombia

Avianca, the second-largest airline in Latin America, said it was suspending all passenger operations.

Last week it had grounded international flights but was continuing to provide domestic services.

The measure came after Colombia President Ivan Duque closed the country's airspace as the number of confirmed cases there rose to more than 300, with three dead.

Avianca's 10 freight planes will continue to operate but 142 passengers planes have been grounded.

- Mexico

Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, undersecretary of health prevention and promotion, said the country was entering "phase two" of its coronavirus approach, moving from containment to "mitigation."

The decision came after Mexico's confirmed cases rose to 367, five percent of which have come from domestic transmission.

Lopez-Gatell said the new measures would help "reduce the speed of propagation" of the virus.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government has faced criticism in the press for its lax response to the outbreak.

Mexico is one of the few countries in Latin America not to have closed its borders.

- Ecuador

Galapagos Islands government authorities said four people on the Ecuadoran archipelago had tested positive for the virus.

All four had returned to the islands from the port of Guayaquil, the worst affected city in Ecuador with more than half of the country's 1,000 confirmed cases.

A week ago, the government ordered a total ban on visitors to the islands -- which lie more than 900 kilometers (560 miles) west of Ecuador's coast -- where measures were already in place to restrict the movement of people.

The infected individuals will undergo health protocols before being transferred to the mainland, the regional government said.

- Brazil

The Sao Paulo stock exchange surged alongside world markets amidst renewed optimism regarding plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ibovespa index closed up nearly 10 percent having fallen just over five percent on Monday.

"It's still too early to draw any conclusions, but we are seeing less volatility" than last week, said trading analyst Thiago Salomao of brokerage firm Rico Investimentos.

The Brazilian real also strengthened 1.1 percent, to 5.08 to the dollar.

- Chile

A wild puma was captured after it was found wandering around the deserted center of Santiago in search of food, Chilean authorities said.

The one-year-old, 35-kilogram (77-pound) feline came down from the nearby surrounding hills to take advantage of a nighttime curfew due to the virus outbreak.

"This is the habitat they once had and that we've taken away from them," said Marcelo Giagnoni, the director of the agricultural and livestock service that took part in an operation to capture the puma alongside police and the national zoo.

It was transferred to the Santiago zoo to undergo tests.