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19 Mar 2020 | 02:35 PM UTC

El Salvador: Government confirms first case of COVID-19 March 18 /update 6

El Salvador confirms first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on March 18; further spread of the virus expected

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Event

On Wednesday, March 18, President Nayib Bukele confirmed El Salvador's first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The patient reportedly recently returned from Italy.

As of 23:59 (local time) on Tuesday, March 17, El Salvador International Airport (SAL) is closed for all operations for a duration of 15 days. Only air cargo transportation, maintenance, and humanitarian missions are allowed to continue operations at SAL. President Bukele warned that the airport closure may be extended depending on the conditions of the pandemic. Service at restaurants, cafes, and other food establishments have also been suspended for 15 days. Restaurants will only be allowed to use take-away or self-service windows to serve customers.

A state of emergency was declared on March 14 and all private and public schools have been canceled for 21 days from March 11. Gatherings of more than 75 people are also prohibited. Other social distancing measures are in place, including the closure of bars and discos, the allowing of pregnant staff and individuals over the age of 60 to work from home, and the reduction of government operations. All foreigners are also currently banned from entering the country.

Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.