Coronavirus Update: Empty shelves in Costa Rican supermarket

Central America Coronavirus Update March 27

A daily (ish) update on Coronavirus in Central America. We’ll sift through the main talking points out there so you don’t have to.

As Belize confirmed its second case of coronavirus today, Prime Minister Dean Barrow addressed the nation, calling the situation “the greatest crisis of modern times”.

Belize has enacted a quarantine law across the country banning gatherings of ten people or more and ordering everyone to practice social distancing. In Belize, social distancing means staying at least a meter away from other people.

Buses are now not allowed to carry more people than its seating allows, which as anyone who’s traveled on a Belizean bus knows, should have been done years ago. Actually, Central American buses in general, not just Belizean ones. Silver linings and all that. Bus drivers have to ensure the entire vehicle is sanitized once arriving at the terminal. Again, a great idea that shouldn’t have needed a pandemic to implement. Travelers also need to wash and sanitize their hands before boarding a bus in Belize.

The government has also announced a number of businesses to close during the corona crisis, including, well, pretty much everything except for food stores and pharmacies. Bars, casinos, gyms, and barbers are all closed. Restaurants can open as long as they can provide takeout. Any business allowed to open has to enforce social distancing rules for both staff and customers.

The international airport is now closed and most airlines have suspended their services in and out of Belize. All borders are also closed.

Guatemala now has 25 reported cases of Coronavirus and one death.

President Alejandro Giammattai also addressed the nation tonight, thanking Congress for approving funds to help during the crisis. He pledged money to increase testing for COVID-19 plus funds for businesses, the elderly, and the poor.

In one heartwarming story of the human spirit in the Land of Eternal Spring, gang members in the rough Zone 18 district of Guatemala City announced that they would be suspending their extortion money collections in the Colonia Kennedy market because of COVID-18. As the current lockdown forces the market to close at noon, gangs have “forgiven” their weekly payment this week.

As El Salvador counts a total of 13 coronavirus cases, many are praising the actions of President Nayib Bukele for his fast action in curbing the virus before it arrived in the country.

It’s also been great to see the economic measures Bukele has announced, including suspending utility bills, credit card payments, and mortgages. El Salvador’s government has definitely been the most pro-active in the region, and Bukele is seeing positive approval of over 90% in the opinion polls.

But others are suspicious of the young president’s actions, saying that recent quarantine measures and suspension of civil liberties are a dangerous sign of authoritarianism.

Coronavirus cases in Honduras have shot up over the past couple of days, reaching a total of 67 so far.

Honduras has also seen its first coronavirus death. A 60-year-old man died in San Pedro Sula last night. Reports say he had a history of heart disease and high blood pressure that complicated his coronavirus infection.

In the meantime, President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s Honduras Solidaria program to help feed and supply people on lockdown in Honduras got underway today. Honduras is under a strict lockdown with most everything shut, including public transport. This necessitates the need for troops to get out into the country delivering supplies.

Nicaragua, a country doing barely anything to contain the spread of coronavirus, today reported its first death from the illness.

According to reports, the victim was diabetic and HIV positive.

Elsewhere, there seems to be a discrepancy between the number of official cases the Nicaraguan government says there are (two) and the number the WHO says there are (six). Although we’re still talking single figures here – and the real figures are surely much, much higher – it just goes to show how difficult the Ortega regime is regarding these things. Very sad.

Costa Rica’s coronavirus tally jumped up to 231 today (with two deaths in total), making it the second most affected country after Panama.

The leap of 30 cases from yesterday’s total of 201 marks the biggest single daily increase in Costa Rica.

As Costa Ricans adapt to life at home, the government called for continued social distancing and implored citizens to not let their guard down at all.

Meanwhile, President Carlos Alvarado called on the WHO to create a voluntary pool of information for all member countries to share in the fight against coronavirus.

With 674 cases and 9 deaths, Panama is by far the worst-affected country in Central America.

Already in a state of near virtual lockdown, the country is now under curfew from 5:00 PM to 5:00 AM to keep people off the streets and at home. during the day, from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM, people are only allowed out to shop for essentials on a schedule determined by the last number on their identity cards or passports.

James Dyde is the editor of www.centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.