Latin America Announces Partial Lockdown as Coronavirus Spreads

Latin America is stepping up its response to the coronavirus pandemic, with governments across the region announcing a series of new measures.

Presidents in Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Uruguay went on national television Friday to report the partial closure of borders, quarantine measures, and the banning of large public events.

It was Venezuela, though, with its health care system in crisis after years of economic collapse, that announced the strictest measures. President Nicolas Maduro said all schools and universities would be closed and that workplaces would follow suit in the next few days. The country has already suspended many flights, while the opposition has canceled street protests.

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said he was closing the nation’s border with Venezuela as of 5 a.m. Saturday. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans cross the border every day in search of food or medicines, or simply to flee the country.

Cases Rising

While the number of coronavirus cases in Latin America remains relatively low, they’re rising steadily. Brazil now has 98 confirmed cases, Chile has 43 cases, Peru 38, Argentina 34, and Mexico 23. Uruguay and Venezuela each have fewer than 10.

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera warned that an additional 2,000 people in the country are at imminent risk of infection. He pledged more funds for the health care system to buy equipment, while stepping back from the immediate closure of schools.

Surrounded by his ministers, Uruguay’s President Luis Lacalle Pou, who was sworn into office this month, declared a health emergency on Friday, with the partial closure of the country’s borders. School attendance was optional, he said.

In Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro was declared free of the disease on Friday, governors in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio have suspended classes, and banned large events and prison visits.

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