Central America Resorts to Isolation Against COVID-19
By Julieta Pelcastre / Diálogo April 13, 2020
With the advance of the coronavirus in the western hemisphere, Central American countries are under states of emergency and curfews. Their armed forces are taking several measures to halt the advance of the global threat in their territories, without neglecting their daily duties to counter crime.
El Salvador was the first Latin American country to declare a mandatory national lockdown, on March 12. The Armed Forces and the National Civil Police are keeping their air, land, and maritime spaces closed. Only one person per family can go out about twice a week to get food or medicine, authorities ordered.
In addition to strengthening security in quarantine centers, soldiers provide water and meals to patients, sanitize the areas, and organize donations and logistics activities to respond to the emergency. “Two thousand troops are also guarding the 142 blind spots [on the border] that the Naval Force’s Sumpul Command has identified,” said Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.
For its part, Honduras has been under curfew since March 16, as ordered by President Juan Orlando Hernández. All borders are closed to the flow of people, and the use of public transport is banned.
The Honduran Armed Forces maintain order with checkpoints, patrols, and operations, and prevent people from gathering. They also provide free food to families who have self-isolated in their homes, bring health protection, and transport medical equipment and supplies, says the Honduran Secretariat of National Defense.
In Panama, President Laurentino Cortizo announced that “as of March 16, we are restricting the entry of non-nationals and non-residents into the country. Every passenger will be in mandatory preventive isolation at home for 14 days. Food, medicine, and supplies will continue to enter,” he said.
On March 25, Cortizo issued a curfew. “I declare a mandatory full quarantine in the national territory for an unspecified period, with a few exceptions,” he said. “The supply chain of food, banking, grocery stores, and health services will be able to move and operate. The population can only go out in the streets for two hours, taking turns to stock up on basic supplies.”
In Costa Rica, President Carlos Alvarado has closed the borders. “We are urged to remain at home, not to expose ourselves, not to create unrest, and to follow the recommendations,” Alvarado told the press.
The Public Force strengthened surveillance at the borders to stop the virus spread. “In the case of Costa Ricans and resident foreigners, they may return to the country, but they will have to be under quarantine for 14 days,” Alvarado added.
In Guatemala, restrictive measures for the population began on March 22. The Army and Police forces patrol the streets, highways, and border crossings; those who fail to comply with the curfew will be arrested and brought to justice, the Mexican newspaper El Universal said. Service members conduct air, maritime, and border riverine surveillance, and also provide security for the Ministry of Health’s personnel, the newspaper added.
The Guatemalan Army reported that the Corps of Engineers is building five field hospitals in the country’s west, all equipped with a quarantine area for observation and isolation.
Although Nicaragua confirmed that the virus was in the country on March 18, the Daniel Ortega government has not taken any steps or deployed the Armed Forces to combat COVID-19.