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Lockdown begins in Colombia amid protests, looting

Government announces essential services to continue during 19-day quarantine

Laura Gamba  | 25.03.2020 - Update : 25.03.2020
Lockdown begins in Colombia amid protests, looting

BOGOTA, Colombia

Colombia declared a 19-day nationwide lockdown that started at midnight Tuesday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are a few hours away from starting the national quarantine, a very important moment for our country, where our behavior, our attitude, our discipline, our solidarity, our commitment can save lives,” said President Ivan Duque.

Before a previous quarantine, the hours were marked by riots and some stores were looted for food.

Local politicians reported groups of Venezuelan migrants received false Whatsapp messages saying they would receive help from the government to survive the quarantine.

“Fooled by false chains of Whatsapp messages, dozens of Venezuelans came to Alpujarra to claim 60,000 pesos [$15] that the mayor's office was supposed to give them,” the mayor of Medellin Daniel Quintero wrote on Twitter. “It is hard for me to believe some people would want to play with other people's hopes right now.”

In Bogota, protests, queues at bus stations, supermarkets and banks and bus terminals full of individuals wanting return home was the balance left by the last day of a preventive isolation drill, which expires Wednesday with the beginning of the nearly three-week national quarantine.

The government asked the public to resist panic buying as people began crowding markets to stock up before the deadline.

The National Institute of Food and Drug Monitoring (INVIMA) announced March 22 that Colombia received help from Turkey that will allow quicker and more efficiently diagnostics.

“Due to the efforts of the government of Turkey and the actions of many entities under the leadership of President Ivan Duque, the country has 26,000 chemical tests for the detection of Covid-19,” INVIMA Director Julio Cesar Aldana Bula wrote on Twitter.

Colombia has 378 confirmed cases of the virus and three deaths.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 172 countries and regions.

Out of more than 438,000 confirmed cases globally, the death toll now nears 20,000, while more than 111,890 have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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