March 19, 2020 / 1:53 PM / 13 days ago

Colombia to suspend entry for all travelers from abroad

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will block entry to everyone traveling from abroad from midnight on Monday in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus, President Ivan Duque said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Colombia's President Ivan Duque holds a news conference at the Tecnologico de Moneterrey in Mexico City, Mexico March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

The Andean country earlier this week closed its land and water borders and limited entry through airports to citizens and resident foreigners.

“Until the weekend we will permit the entrance of Colombians coming from abroad and for a period of 30 days we will suspend the entrance of international travelers,” Duque said in a televised address.

His office later clarified in a tweet that the measure will be effective from midnight on Monday.

Colombians living or traveling abroad have had a “wide window” to return home, Duque said, adding he was aware the measure would likely be unpopular.

Colombia is also requiring all arrivals to complete a 14-day preventative quarantine. It has closed schools, bars and nightclubs and has delayed the start of the legislative session in Congress.

According to the country’s migration authorities, more than 40 foreigners have been expelled for not respecting the mandatory isolation period.

So far 108 people in Colombia have been confirmed infected by coronavirus, most of them after traveling in Europe or the United States. No deaths related to the illness have been confirmed.

Duque’s government has been criticized for not being clearer in publicizing the travelers’ quarantine, with some tourists taking to social media to say they were not made aware of the requirement when they landed.

On Tuesday the country ordered people aged 70 and over to stay home from Friday until the end of May, except for trips to purchase food, get medical care or complete financial transactions.

The government published a decree on Wednesday ordering local and municipal governments to coordinate mass isolation efforts with it, after several regional leaders put in place curfews and other measures.

The mayor of Bogota has urged citizens in the city of more than 7 million to participate in a weekend practice for a potential future mass isolation.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, Oliver Griffin, Nelson Bocanegra, Luis Jaime Acosta and Carlos Vargas; Editing by Franklin Paul and Frances Kerry

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