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Colombia to hold 19-day quarantine to fight coronavirus

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will enter a nationwide quarantine from Tuesday night, President Ivan Duque said late on Friday, the most drastic measure implemented so far by the South American country as it seeks to prevent the spread of the fast-moving coronavirus.

A lonely street is seen during the four-day mandatory isolation decreed by the mayor of Bogota, as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Leonardo Munoz.

The quarantine in the country, which has 158 confirmed cases of the virus, will last for 19 days. It has not reported any deaths.

Duque said the action, which will include strict restrictions on citizens’ movements outside the home, was necessary to fight the disease.

“In the coming weeks we have the opportunity to collectively take away the virus’ speed,” Duque said.

A government spokesman said more details would be released about the quarantine before Monday.

Government sources said they will include movement exceptions for medical personnel, security forces and workers at pharmacies and supermarkets.

Colombia’s government has already said it will block incoming international flights from Monday and ordered people aged 70 and over to stay inside until the end of May. It has also closed land and water borders along with schools and bars.

The coming national quarantine does not cancel out local measures already in place, Duque said.

The capital Bogota began a multi-day quarantine drill on Friday. It is set to end on Monday, giving residents 24 hours to prepare before the nationwide restriction begins.

The Bogota drill allows exceptions for the elderly and disabled and delivery personnel to move around. Pet owners are authorized to take animals outside for 20 minutes and one person per family can leave to purchase supplies.

Governments around the world have implemented restrictions on travel and day-to-day life in an effort to stem the virus, which has killed more than 10,000 people around the world.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Jane Wardell and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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