April 7, 2020 / 8:28 PM / 2 months ago

Messages from above: Colombia's army takes to the skies to enforce quarantine

A Colombian national army pilot wears a face mask inside a helicopter amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bogota, Colombia April 7, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - From helicopters blasting messages over densely crowded areas to issuing fines, Colombia’s military is deploying all kinds of methods to ensure compliance with a national quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Andean country is in the midst of an obligatory isolation that began late last month and is set to last until April 27.

Healthcare workers, members of the military and the police, and staff in grocery stores, pharmacies, food factories and banks are allowed out. Otherwise, just one person per family can leave home to buy groceries and carry out financial transactions.

Some people, however, are wandering streets and riding public transport at the risk of contracting the virus and infecting family members, according to the police.

The police have issued warnings or fines of 936,000 pesos ($235) to some 95,000 people for flouting quarantine rules.

“We carry special speakers ... to fly over parts of Bogota and the surrounding municipalities in order to prevent, mitigate and contain the pandemic,” Colonel Jorge Alfredo Martinez, second commander of the Army Aviation Brigade, told Reuters.

These aerial patrols are carried out in the capital and other cities across the country which has reported more than 1,500 infections and over 40 deaths.

“Dear citizens: the army salutes you and asks that you remain in your houses to comply with the quarantine ordered by the government,” said a pre-recorded message broadcast from a helicopter flying above a working class area of Bogota.

“Remember to follow the recommendations of the health authorities. Stay in your houses. We will look after you and by abiding by the rules, you will look after us,” the message continued, while people in apartments below applauded.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Richard Chang

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