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  • Colombian President Ivan Duque.

    Colombian President Ivan Duque. | Photo: EFE

Published 20 March 2020
Opinion

The latest Covid-19 news from the Global South and around the world on Friday, March  20, 2020.

Update 10:22 PM:

Colombia declares total quarantine

Colombian President Ivan Duque declared a total quarantine on Friday night due to the danger posed by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The order will start from next Wednesday (March 25) and will be carried out for a period of 19 days. 

"It is time to understand that our behavior saves lives," Duque said, who has been criticized for not assuming the relevant policies to confront the virus.

This week, the health unions had sent a letter to Duque assuring that, given the significant increase in cases of COVID-19 in the country (158 until this Friday), it was necessary to "raise the level of isolation restrictions by a period, since it has been the most effective tool for pandemic control."

Update 8:00 PM:

Peru's President Martin Vizcarra announces that four people died from the new coronavirus, the number of confirmed cases increased to 263.

Chilean health minister considers it "foolish and unnecessary" to establish a total quarantine: The Chilean Health Minister, Jaime Mañalich, said this Friday that it is "foolish and unnecessary" to declare a total quarantine to fight the coronavirus, which now totals 434 cases in the country, as requested by the Government various local and regional authorities.  His words have created a backlash of anger some even from government supporters.

Colombian mayor with coronavirus will be investigated for violation of measures: The Colombian Attorney General's Office opened a preliminary investigation on Friday against the mayor of the city of Popayán (southwest), Juan Carlos López, who tested positive for COVID-19, for an alleged violation of sanitary measure and falsification of documents.

"The Attorney General's Office acts with determination and is implacable with those who disregard the measures ordered by the health authorities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus," the investigating entity explained in a statement.

Update 5:30 PM:

Brazil heading into recession due to coronavirus impacts: When the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stuck its head out after suffering its worst recession in decades (2015 and 2016), the coronavirus pandemic frustrated the comeback. The Government cut Friday the forecasts for the largest economy in South America in 2020 drastically.

The forecast downward a week ago, from 2.40% to 2.10% this year, expired in a matter of days. Now the economic cabinet of the neoliberal Paulo Guedes foresees a scenario of stagnation, on the brink of recession (+0.02%).

Argentina says that its debt is unpayable and that COVID-19 may lengthen crisis: The Argentinian economy minister, Martín Guzmán, said this Friday that the high external debt that the country is dragging "is unpayable" and warned that the time of the economic recovery is uncertain due to the crisis of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.

"Argentina's current public debt is not financeable, it is excessively onerous and it is not sustainable," Guzmán confessed.

Update: 1:45 PM

United States: the USNS Comfort is deployed to New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the hospital ship USNS Comfort, which has over a thousand rooms, will dock in New York Bay by a decision of President Donald Trump.

On Friday, one of the control towers at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) closed its operations for several hours after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.

The person infected was on the premises on March 16 but did not enter the tower cabin.

"Still, as a precautionary measure, we have scheduled a cleanup of the tower cabin, equipment room, administrative offices, and elevators to ensure a safe work environment for all employees," the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) explained.

In the state of New York, there are 7,102 Covid-19 cases, 2,950 more than Thursday. More than half of the cases, 4,408, are concentrated in New York City, where there have been almost 2,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. In total, New York State has recorded 35 deaths.

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Puerto Rico: Coronavirus cases go from 8 to 14 in less than a day

The Health Department Friday reported that the number of Covid-19 cases increased from eight to fourteen in the past 24 hours, according to data reported by the Veterans Hospital.

In the new cases, there are five men and a woman whose ages range from 33 to 65 years old. All the cases presented symptoms and only two of them have no travel history. The rest of the patients had developed their symptoms after having traveled to New York, Florida, and Colorado.

Regarding the health condition of these patients, five of them are in home isolation and only one hospitalized in an isolation room.

In Puerto Rico, the number of cases under investigation reached 180 people. Among them, 114 patients are Covid-19 negative and 52 are awaiting results.

Update 8:00 AM

The number of cases doubled in just 12 days, WHO warns

The World Health Organization (WHO) Friday warned that the COVID-19 pandemic took three months to reach 100,000 cases but only 12 days to exceed 200,000. For this reason, this international institution asked governments to redouble efforts to "flatten the curve" and cut this worrying trend.

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The growth rate "unfortunately shows the typical upward curve of epidemics and pandemics," the WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

"As many patients as possible should be treated; at the same time, however, the production of vital medical equipment, such as masks or ventilation devices, should continue," he added.

Lindmeier stressed that in countries like France, where the number of cases doubled in just four days, the pandemic growth rate is even higher than the global average.

"You don't have to give up or wait for the worst to happen. You don't have to deal with only the most serious cases. It is important to continue putting in place a complete package of measures, which begins with testing all suspected cases to find out what we are fighting against."

"If we do not know how many are infected in a country, their measures are not as effective as they could be," Lindmeier insisted.

Papua New Guinea: the first Covid-19 case came from Spain

Prime Minister James Marape Friday announced the first confirmed Covid-19 case: a 45-year-old man who traveled from Madrid to Port Moresby, the country's capital, on March 13.

"This person worked in one of our mines and came from Spain, where he came stopping in Singapore. When he arrived he had no visible symptoms, but developed some later," Marape said.

This patient is isolated and that the coronavirus symptoms have almost completely subsided. Nevertheless, he will be tested again for COVID-19 soon and, if they give a negative result, he will be discharged in the coming days.

Marape, who wanted to reassure fellow citizens that "there are no masses of people with the virus" in the country, explained that some 5,000 people have arrived in Papua New Guinea since January. Among them, 19 people suspected of having the coronavirus were identified, but 18 tested negative.

Currently, Papua New Guinea is the most impoverished country in the Pacific and has an extremely precarious healthcare system, despite its abundant mining resources.

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