March 18, 2020 / 7:37 PM / 16 days ago

Dominican government to suspend flights, classes to curb coronavirus

SANTO DOMINGO, March 18 (Reuters) - The government of the Dominican Republic will suspend commercial flights and ships as well as close schools and entertainment centers beginning on Thursday, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the president announced.

“We have decided to close the country’s borders by land, sea and air,” President Danilo Medina said in a televised speech on Tuesday night.

The Dominican Republic’s sole land border is with Haiti, and restrictions at that border began on Monday, the day Dominican health officials reported the island nation’s first fatality attributed to coronavirus.

Over the next 15 days, only airplanes serving the thousands of foreign tourists who remain in Dominican tourist destinations will be allowed to enter the country, Medina said. The planes’ crews will not be permitted to disembark.

The Dominican government will also permit the arrival of aircraft and ships bringing in basic supplies.

Businesses will be closed, with the exception of pharmacies, markets, grocery stores and banks, while restaurants may only process delivery orders.

Public employees over the age of 60 must remain in their homes, while other bureaucrats will be divided into two groups to alternate shifts, in additional prevention strategies.

The Dominican Congress on Wednesday was expected to debate an emergency bill that would free up funds to permit additional responses to the pandemic. (Reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by David Alire Garcia and David Gregorio)

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