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14 Mar, 2020 02:20

Guatemala bars travel from US & Canada as Washington reluctant to halt deportations despite coronavirus concerns

Guatemala bars travel from US & Canada as Washington reluctant to halt deportations despite coronavirus concerns

Guatemala has expanded a travel ban on those arriving from countries hit hardest by Covid-19 to include the United States and Canada, the country’s president said, amid worries that deportations from the US are driving the crisis.

After stepping up measures to contain the outbreak earlier this week – deploying stricter health screenings at its border ahead of the arrival of a migrant caravan bound for the US – Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced on Friday that travelers arriving from the US and Canada would no longer be granted entry, as the disease toll continues to climb in both countries.

Guatemala confirmed its first case of the illness earlier on Friday, sending authorities into overdrive to come to grips with the fast-moving contagion, also turning away all arrivals from Europe, China, Iran and the Koreas, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

“I declare the entry of the #Coronavirus to Guatemala, we already have the first case that was transferred to the Villa Nueva Hospital,” President Giammattei said while announcing the Central American nation’s first infection. “I ask the population not to panic and to continue preventive measures to prevent the spread of the virus.”

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Under a much-criticized deal struck with Washington last year, Guatemala agreed to accept deported migrants hailing from El Salvador and Honduras, where they could request asylum or return to their home countries.

With the US showing no sign of slowing its deportations of migrants, a number of Latin American countries in addition to Guatemala have widened efforts to stem the spread of the disease, with Honduras suspending all repatriation flights after confirming its first two cases this week, while El Salvador declared a “national quarantine” and banned entry to all foreign nationals who aren’t residents or diplomats.

The moves come as the US implements its own far-reaching travel ban on Europe, announced by President Trump on Wednesday night. The measure will apply for 30 days, halting all flights from the continent besides those bringing Americans home from abroad through select airports equipped to screen for the virus.

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Covid-19 has been observed in countries across Latin America, with cases confirmed in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama – where the region’s first fatality took place – Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, among others. Cases in the US, meanwhile, have soared beyond 2,000 with more than 40 deaths, while Canada has confirmed over 200 infections and a single fatal case.

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