MONETEVIDEO: Bolivia’s government on Saturday (Mar 21) ordered the country to go under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic as the top electoral court indefinitely postponed May’s general election.
Chile suffered its first death from the virus as Latin American countries stepped up measures to fight the deadly disease.
Sao Paulo state in Brazil also announced a two-week quarantine while Guatemala imposed a partial curfew.
Latin America has now recorded more than 3,700 cases and 45 deaths.
The Supreme Electoral Court announced it was indefinitely postponing the May 3 general election to find a permanent successor to exiled former president Evo Morales.
The court said in a statement that it hoped for a “broad and pluralistic dialogue with all the political organizations participating in the process” to determine “a new date” in 2020.
Most of the eight presidential candidates had called for the election to be postponed.
The move threatens to drag Bolivia into a political crisis given it has been without an elected president since Morales resigned in November and fled the country.
Interim President Jeanine Anez assumed power with a mandate to hold a new election after the October poll was annulled following an audit by the Organization of American States that found evidence it had been rigged.
Morales had controversially won the election but stepped down three weeks later under pressure from at-times violent street protests.
Meanwhile, Anez said the nationwide quarantine would come into effect on Sunday.
“It’s a tough but necessary decision for the good of everyone,” she said.
“We must be at home for 24 hours a day,” she added. “It’s the way to beat coronavirus.”
Only one person per family will be allowed to go out to buy food.
All vehicles will be barred from the roads except those carrying supplies.
Bolivia has registered 19 cases and no deaths so far.
An 83-year-old woman has become Chile’s first virus victim as the country’s total cases surged by more than 100 in the last 24 hours to over 500.
Of Chile’s cases, 33 have been hospitalized and 359 are in the capital Santiago, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said.
Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria ordered a two-week quarantine that requires a “total closure of non-essential businesses and services.”
Sao Paulo state is home to 46 million people, and its capital city of the same name is the biggest in Latin America, with 13 million inhabitants.
It is the worst-hit area of Brazil, which has recorded more than 1,100 cases and 18 deaths.
While “bars, cafes and restaurants” must close, health services, security services, banks, supermarkets, bakeries and public transport will all continue to function.
Doria said the measure would not affect industry.
President Alejandro Giammattei announced a partial curfew and warned that the Central American country faced some dangerous days ahead.
Giammattei said the measure would begin on Sunday and last for eight days, with movement restricted from 4:00pm to 4:00am.
“We’re arriving at the most dangerous weeks. In fact, this week will be key to containing the virus,” he said.
Guatemala has registered 17 coronavirus cases and one death so far.
The normally bustling border crossings of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana were half-empty on Saturday, one day after Mexico and the United States announced they were restricting non-essential travel.
Trade would not be affected by the measure.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump for not entirely closing the border and proposed accelerating implementation of the Canada-United States-Mexico free trade agreement, which replaced NAFTA.
Mexico has had just over 200 virus cases and two deaths but unlike most of the rest of Latin America, has not closed its borders, imposed quarantines or even closed schools and businesses.