BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia could further restrict international and national flights and limit passenger transport by road in a bid to contain coronavirus, the transport minister said on Tuesday.
Governments throughout the world have implemented draconian containment measures from halting travel to stopping sport and scrambled to contain the devastating economic impact as the flu-like disease, which originated in China, has raced across the world.
More than 187,000 people have been infected and nearly 7,500 have died.
Colombia, which has 65 cases of the virus and as yet no confirmed deaths, has already barred anyone who is not a citizen or a resident from entering the country by air and completely shuttered land and waterway borders.
The country’s transport sector accounts for some 4.9% of its $265 billion GDP.
“I cannot rule out any scenario. Our obligation is to have it simulated and have it clear the type of decisions we would need to take in the moment for health reasons,” Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco told Reuters in an interview.
Politicians like Bogota mayor Claudia Lopez have called for all international flights to be cancel, a measure Orozco did not rule out.
“It depends on the phase, how the contagion and pandemic increase and obviously the phase we are in compared to other countries,” Orozco said, adding the Andean country is using other countries’ experiences to inform its decisions.
There has already been a notable reduction in domestic passenger transport by air and road, the minister said.
Though activity is also down at principal shipping ports like Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast, Colombia will not be restricting the entrance or exit of goods, she added.
Air cargo transport has also not been suspended, Orozco said, though crews are not allowed to disembark.
There are not yet figures on losses in Colombia’s transport sector due to COVID-19, Orozco said, but airlines in particular are facing a “critical” situation.
Global airlines on Tuesday demanded urgent tax relief to avoid multiple bankruptcies as coronavirus disruption continued its spread across the global industry.
“Just looking at my sector this will have an enormous economic impact,” she said.
Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alistair Bell