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LATIN AMERICA | 02-04-2021 02:59

Chile, Bolivia, close borders, Peru locks down in Covid battle

Virus surges in Latin America – Chile closes all borders for the month of April; Bolivia shutters frontier with Brazil; Peru goes into Easter lockdown.

Chile closed all its borders for the month of April, Bolivia shuttered its frontier with Brazil and Peru went into Easter lockdown Thursday as South America moved to brake a quickening coronavirus pandemic.

Chile's government said it would batten down the hatches starting next Monday while it seeks to speed up its vaccination campaign.

The measure came as Chile recorded its highest daily infection rate, 7,830, since the pandemic began.

The country passed the mark of a million reported infections (1,003,406 in total), with 23,328 deaths recorded since March last year.

The country's intensive care units are 95 percent full, and government spokesman Jaime Bellolio said Thursday: "We urgently need to make an additional effort, because we are in a very critical moment of the pandemic."

Neighboring Peru, for its part, entered a four-day national lockdown for the Easter weekend.

The streets of Lima were quiet with little other than food shops and pharmacies open, while restaurants were limited to take-aways and home deliveries.

Peruvians have lived under a daily curfew for the last 13 months, along with a ban on public gatherings, though this has not stopped politicians from amassing supporters for campaign events ahead of April 11 presidential elections.

Peru's average daily infection rate last week exceeded 9,000, with about 200 fatalities every 24 hours for a total of more than 52,000 deaths to date.

The country has a ban in place until April 15 on all flights from Brazil, Britain or South Africa to try and prevent virus variants from these countries entering its territory.

Bolivia said Thursday it would close its border with Brazil for at least a week from Friday, and place under lockdown border towns where the Brazil virus variant had been identified.

Bolivia has reported 12,257 coronavirus deaths out of more than 272,000 recorded infections in a population of 11.5 million, and hopes to vaccinate its adult population by September.

In terms of vaccination, Chile is one of the best-performing countries in the world with seven million of its 19 million population having received at least one shot, and 24 percent of the population with the two doses required for immunity.

In Peru, with a population of 33 million, some 570,000 people have received a shot.

South America has been hard hit by a new pandemic wave with Brazil at its epicenter. The country of 212 million people has seen the virus kill more than 66,000 people in March alone, for a total of over 320,000.

– TIMES/AFP

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