Dominican Republic to suspend flights from Europe on Monday due to coronavirus

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - The Dominican Republic will from Monday morning suspend all flights from Europe and the arrival of all cruise ships for a month in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government said late on Saturday.

The measure is likely to deal a heavy blow to tourism, which generates around 23% of foreign currency revenues and accounts for 11% of gross domestic product.

The travel suspension will come into effect at 6 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) on March 16, the minister for the presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, told a news conference.

Victor Gomez, director of the ports authority, said the final two cruise ships left the eastern port of La Romana on Sunday morning.

Around one in four of the nearly 6 million tourists who visit the Caribbean country each year come from Europe, notably Germany, Spain, France and Italy, official data show.

So far 11 cases of coronavirus have been detected in the Dominican Republic, including travelers from Canada, Italy, France and Venezuela, and Dominicans who were abroad.

The government said people who had visited Europe, China, South Korea and Iran during the past two weeks will be isolated in quarantine upon arrival in the Dominican Republic.

The authorities also banned foreign travel by government officials, and ordered military doctors to take charge of epidemiological surveillance in ports and airports.

The ban comes as Dominican voters return to the polls on Sunday for the second time in less than a month for municipal elections, after a failure in voting equipment forced their suspension in February, generating a wave of protests.

Reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez; Editing by Lisa Shumaker