El Salvador embraces border measures before confirming any coronavirus cases
SAN SALVADOR — President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador announced over the weekend a ban on travelers from France and Germany, adding them to a list that already included China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, placing the Central American country ahead of its neighbors in the stringency of its reaction to the coronavirus epidemic.
Salvadoran nationals, including diplomats, returning from countries with travel bans will be quarantined for 30 days, the government said.
El Salvador has not confirmed any coronavirus cases. Neighboring Mexico and nearby Costa Rica have both reported cases but have not put travel bans in place.
The government took steps Sunday to sanitize El Salvador International Airport and brought in new equipment to check the temperatures of incoming passengers.
“We should implement measures to check symptoms and monitor the health of people entering El Salvador from any country that has reported cases of coronavirus,” Bukele tweeted.
Even before the president’s announcement, international travelers going through customs were already receiving temperature checks and being asked to declare their travel history. On Sunday, three Salvadoran students who were studying in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak in China, returned to El Salvador after completing a quarantine period in Ukraine.
Nearly a third of Salvadorans live in poverty. Experts have warned that poor and marginalized populations are at heightened risk as the virus spreads.
Francisco Alabi, El Salvador’s deputy health minister, told reporters Monday that the lack of confirmed and suspected cases in the country meant there was no reason yet for Salvadorans to worry.
“People need to be calm,” he said.
The International Women’s Media Foundation provided support for this reporting as part of the Adelante Latin American Reporting Initiative.