Coronavirus in Latin America: Nine countries impose restriction on travelers


Argentina has announced the suspension of arrivals for one month from countries that are the focus of the pandemic. The measures are similar to those taken by Bolivia.

Argentina raised its number of infected to 21. It has also reported one death from the covid-19, one of only two in Latin America, the other was Panama. On Wednesday, before the declaration of a global pandemic made by the World Health Organization (WHO).  President Alberto Fernández announced that he was preparing a decree to declare quarantines mandatory, under threat of some kind of penal sanction.

On Thursday, he decreed travel restrictions in two terms: First, he suspended visas for citizens of China, Iran, and South Korea. Later, he announced the suspension of arrivals of flights from Europe, the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Iran. These measures also entail “mandatory isolation” for 14 days for people who are suspected of being infected with COVID-19.


The Argentine Ministry of Tourism and Sports has suspended the presence of the public at all massive sports events, in addition to decreeing the suspension of other shows, such as the Lollapallooza festival, which brings together more than 300,000 people and 100 artists for three days in the city from Buenos Aires. In Jujuy, in the northwest of the country, there are no classes for 15 days, a measure evaluated by approving other provinces.

Colombia President Iván Duque announced a health emergency. The decision, made this Thursday, allows the Colombian Government to cancel all events that gather more than 500 people, suspend the disembarkation of cruise ships and preventive isolation of foreign people in hotels.

Duque had already announced, on Wednesday morning, the mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving in the country from Spain, Italy, France and China.

There are 9 confirmed infected in the country between Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena, three of the most populated cities. Passengers arriving in Colombia must insulate themselves 14 days at their destination, whether they are homes or hotels.

“Preventive isolation is adopted to protect collective health,” said Duque. Its Health Minister, Fernando Ruiz, was more blunt: “If they cannot afford the isolation, the health authorities recommend not visiting Colombia.”

Last week, following a decision by the Executive, the Inter-American Development Bank decided to postpone until September its annual meeting, originally scheduled for March 18-22 in Barranquilla, the main Colombian city on the Caribbean. More at QColombia.

Peru took similar steps as its neighbors on Wednesday morning. With 15 confirmed infections, President Martín Vizcarra, announced the “preventive home isolation” for 14 days for all people arriving in Peru from Italy, Spain, France and China.

In an emergency decree, the Peruvian government has issued a declaration of sanitary emergency for the next 90 days.

The measures taken include the suspension of all academic activities and the ban on holding events with more than 300 people until the end. To prevent citizens, the National University of San Marcos, the most important public institutions in the country, has released an informative video in Quechua, the predominant indigenous language of Peru.

Chile took action on Tuesday when the Sebastián Piñera government decided to classify those arriving from Spain and Italy as “high risk travelers”, also imposing a 14-day quarantine.

The Chilean Government has already determined, since last March 6, that passengers arriving both by air, sea or land, sign an affidavit where they must inform the countries they visited in the last 30 days – with special mention to China.

“If they had contact with sick people, if they have suffered any of the symptoms associated with the disease and their accommodation address during their stay in Chilean territory,’ said a government statement.

With 23 confirmed cases, all imported and with a greater presence in the capital, the massive events have not yet been restricted. At the end of March, Chile plans to host its own edition of the Lollapalooza.

In Bolivia, the health authorities confirmed 3 cases of contagion up to Wednesday night. They are two women over 60 from Italy and a 26-year-old man who returned to the country from Spain. Despite the small number of cases, the Bolivian population has reacted with fear to the possibility of the virus spreading.

The transitional government, which had declared a national emergency on Wednesday, asking residents in the country to undergo “voluntary isolation” in case they had passed through one of the countries suffering from the epidemic, decided to suspend all flights from Europe since this weekend.

In Santa Cruz, a city in the east of the country where one of the infected women lives, the workers of four hospitals prevented her from being admitted, in a sort of riot in which some residents of these health centers also participated. The 60-year-old woman ended up interned in some city government offices waiting for the authorities to manage to admit her to a hospital.

In Oruro, a city in the west of the country where the second case was presented, classes were suspended, a measure that was not consulted with the Ministry of Education, which later dismissed the measure. In Yacuiba, a border city with Argentina, residents blocked the highway to demand that travelers from this country, where the disease is more widespread, be controlled.

In Paraguay, which has confirmed six cases of the virus, the government said it would cancel direct flights to and from Europe beginning Friday through March 26. Authorities had already suspended large-scale gatherings and educational, religious and sporting events.

Brazil, has more confirmed cases than any other Latin American country, 77. On Monday (March 9) President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday minimized the threat of the new coronavirus . “In my opinion, that virus’s destructive power is overstated. Maybe it is even potentially being exaggerated for political reasons,” Bolsonaro said.

Confirmed cases of novel coronavirus Covid-19 in Mexico remain low, 13 (an additional 49 cases were under investigation), but there is a growing resignation that a much more widespread outbreak is only a matter of time. Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Thursday that community transmission within Mexico could begin within about 15 days.

All of the confirmed cases to date were detected in people who have recently traveled abroad to countries including Italy, Spain and the United States.

The undersecretary for health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell and other federal health officials in Mexico City said during the daily presidential news conference on Thursday that there were no plans to cancel flights in Mexico, though authorities would step up random health inspections at the capital’s airport, one the busiest in the world.

In El Salvador, a country with no confirmed cases, the Government of Nayib Bukele prohibited since January 22 the entry of travelers from China and Iran, the extended it to Italy and South Korea – the four countries with the most cases of coronavirus.

On Wednesday, in its intention to stop the epidemic before it enters the country and declared a national quarantine for 21 days.  During those three weeks, the entry of foreigners to El Salvador will be prohibited and all educational institutions will be closed.

Guatemala also followed this example. Despite having no confirmed cases, the Guatemalan government will prohibit the entry of European citizens starting Thursday and will confine any of its citizens returning from Europe to a mandatory two-week quarantine.

Honduras, with two confirmed cases and 15 suspicious of the covid-19, ordered a two-week closure of all schools, both public and private, to contain the coronavirus, after the country’s National Autonomous University suspended classes indefinitely. As well, Honduras will restrict entry of people coming from Europe, China, Iran, and South Korea.

Nicaragua, the second country in Central America with no confirmed cases, said it is ready to deal with an eventual arrival of the coronavirus and has been working on developing their approach protocol. See more at Today Nicaragua.

Costa Rica said it would close “at-risk” schools for two weeks and suspend university classes after confirming 23 cases. Officials there said that over 8,000 hotel reservations had been canceled, and they expected tourism revenue to fall by half. All on the coronavirus in Costa Rica can be found here.

Panama, with 27 confirmed cases of the covid-19 and one death reported, the government on Wednesday ordered the temporary closure of all schools. The closures apply to both public and private schools and will extend through at least April 7, Education Minister Maruja Gorday said in a statement.