Colombia closes land and sea borders after restricting air travel

President Ivan Duque (L) and Health Minister Fernando Ruiz (Image: President's Office)

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque announced on Monday that he has ordered the full closure of the country’s borders, allowing only restricted air travel.

Duque had already closed the borders with Venezuela and said on Twitter this measure will be extended to the borders with Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil until May 30.

Additionally, the president closed sea and fluvial borders, meaning that cargo ship personnel are not allowed to leave the ports. Cargo will continue to be allowed to enter and leave the country.

The border closing applies to both Colombian nationals and foreigners, and is the latest in an escalation of measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Only Colombian citizens, foreign residents and diplomats are allowed to enter the country by air, and must isolate themselves for a period of two weeks to rule out the possibility of infection.

According to Duque, the decision was taken in coordination with the neighboring countries.

Since March 6, Colombia’s health authorities have confirmed 57 cases of coronavirus in the country. The majority of these patients contracted the virus abroad.

None of the patients confirmed to have coronavirus have died. One was released from hospital on Monday after recovery.

Fears are that rapid contagion could collapse the country’s healthcare system.

Additionally, while only 57 cases have been confirmed, another 2,365 people who believed they carried the virus have been tested, but were cleared.

This large number of false alarms is what is putting most pressure on the country’s fragile public healthcare system that was already on the brink of collapse due to chronic corruption..

Colombia’s number of confirmed cases is relatively low compared to neighboring countries, and a fraction of the cases registered in the United States, and in European and Asian countries.

The South American country, however, also has only a fraction of the budget for healthcare compared to a European country of the same size.

At the same time, Colombia is dealing with an almost uncontrollable migration from the neighboring country Venezuela, which has been suffering a humanitarian crisis for years.

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