Colombia goes into lockdown, Chile extends schools closures

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MONTEVIDEO, March 26, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Countries across Latin America
tightened measures on Wednesday to halt the spread of the deadly novel
coronavirus, with more lockdowns, border closings and school closures as well
as increased aid to the region’s poorest.

As cases of COVID-19 cases continue to rise — more than 7,400 and 123
deaths up to now — Bolivia and Colombia became the latest countries to
impose a total lockdown, while Chile extended its schools closures until the
end of April.

Here are the latest measures taken in several Latin American countries:

– Bolivia –

Bolivia is closing its borders and ordering a strict lockdown until April
15 starting at midnight Wednesday, President Jeanine Anez said, as she
declared a state of “sanitary emergency.”

The measures are designed to add teeth to a lockdown that was ordered on
Sunday but has largely been ignored.

More police and soldiers have been deployed to enforce the measures, Anez
said.

There are narrow exceptions to who can cross the border and times at which
people can be outside, Anez said.

– Colombia –

A three-week total lockdown began just after midnight Tuesday.

“Stay at home, prevent the virus from spreading and save lives,” said
President Ivan Duque.

Colombia, population 48 million, will be locked up until April 12.

Nearly 500 cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Colombia.

The capital city Bogota had already been on lockdown on orders from the
mayor since Sunday.

– Chile –

Some 1.3 million residents of Santiago — including those of the Chilean
capital’s most affluent neighborhoods — will be on lockdown for least a week
starting at 0100 GMT Thursday, officials said.

This followed orders extending school closures until May. Classes were
suspended on March 16, just under two weeks after the first novel coronavirus
case was recorded.

The lockdown areas “concentrate the greatest number of cases, and the
movement of people can generate more contagions,” said Health Minister Jaime
Manalich.

“This means that people will have to stay at home,” he emphasized.

Chile has more than 1,100 recorded infections and three deaths from the
virus.

– Panama –

Panama will allow the cruise ship Zaandam — operated by the Holland
America cruise line — to sail through its canal even though there are 42
people aboard the ship with flu-like symptoms, Health Minister Rosario Turner
said Wednesday.

The ship, with 1,800 passengers aboard, set sail on March 7 from Buenos
Aires, with the destination of San Antonio, on the central coast of Chile.

But the ship had to alter its plans when ports along the way stopped it
from docking due to the coronavirus crisis.

Every ship that reaches Panama must present a list of sick people, “and if
we suspect there are people with respiratory problems, they cannot land,”
Turner said.

The Zaandam is set to cross the 80 kilometer inter-oceanic canal on
Thursday and meet up on the Caribbean side with another cruise ship, the
Rotterdam, which is to deliver supplies and kits to test for the COVID-19
virus.

Its aim is to reach Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 30, the cruise line
said.

There have been 558 cases of the new coronavirus in Panama, including eight
deaths.

– Honduras –

Soldiers have begun distributing food to locked-down residents of the
poorest neighborhoods of the capital Tegucigalpa.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez said 800,000 poor families — 3.2 million
people — would receive food to ensure they stayed indoors.

Honduras has recorded 36 COVID-19 cases so far.

– Brazil –

President Jair Bolsonaro has warned of possible “chaos” and the “looting”
of supermarkets if state shutdowns ordered by the governors of Sao Paulo and
Rio de Janeiro aren’t ended.

Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly scoffed at the severity of the deadly
pandemic, had previously criticized the closing of schools and businesses in
Sao Paulo and Rio states, two of the country’s most populous states.

“Companies aren’t producing anything. They can’t pay their employees. And
if the economy collapses, there won’t be any way to pay public officials. We
are facing chaos,” Bolsonaro said.

If that happened and supermarkets were looted, he said, “we’ll have chaos
plus the virus.”

– Mexico –

BBVA, the largest bank in Mexico, has predicted that the coronavirus
outbreak will cause the economy to contract by 4.5 percent in 2020.

The Spanish bank said Mexican exports would be hard hit by a reduction in
demand from the United States, its largest trading partner, if virus
containment measures continue.

BBVA also said remittances sent to family members in Mexico could be hit by
rising unemployment in the United States.

Other banks, such as Barclays and Credit Suisse, predicted the economy
would shrink by 2-4 percent.

– Uruguay –

Dueling demos: labor activists and their supporters banged of pots and pans
from balconies late Wednesday demanding measures that would protect workers
during the coronavirus crisis — only to be met by government supporters
singing the national anthem at the exact same time.

There are 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Uruguay.

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