Pandemic: total lockdown in Colombia; Chile extends schools closure until May

Countries across Latin America tightened measures on Wednesday to halt the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, with more lockdowns and school closures as well as increased aid to the region's poorest.

As cases of COVID-19 cases continue to rise -- more than 7,400 and 125 deaths up to now -- Colombia became the latest country to impose a total lockdown, while Chile extended its schools closures until the end of April.

In Colombia a three-week total lockdown began just after midnight Tuesday. “Stay at home, prevent the virus from spreading and save lives,” said President Ivan Duque.

Colombia, population 48 million, will be locked up until April 12. It joins Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and El Salvador as the other Latin American countries to have imposed total lockdowns.

Nearly 500 cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Colombia.

In Chile some 1.3 million residents of Santiago -- including those of the Chilean capital's most affluent neighborhoods -- will be on lockdown for least a week starting at 0100 GMT Thursday, officials said.

This followed orders extending school closures until May. Classes were suspended on March 16, just under two weeks after the first novel coronavirus case was recorded.

The lockdown areas “concentrate the greatest number of cases, and the movement of people can generate more contagions,” said Health Minister Jaime Manalich.

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