People walk on the street, wearing protective masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota, Colombia March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Leonardo Munoz.
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s President Ivan Duque declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as the country steps up measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, including ordering the elderly to stay home from Friday until the end of May.
Speaking during a televised address, Duque said full details on the state of emergency would be announced on Wednesday. Governments on every continent have implemented containment measures to contain the disease, which has infected more than 187,000 people and killed nearly 7,500.
“To protect our grandparents we have declared an obligatory isolation starting Friday March 20 from seven o’clock in the morning until May 31,” Duque said.
“All adults older than 70 must remain in their homes except to buy groceries and medicines, use health services, and access financial services.”
So far 75 people in Colombia have been infected by coronavirus, most of them after traveling in Europe or the United States. No deaths have been reported.
Colombia originally required a 14-day quarantine for arriving travelers, before restricting entry to anyone who is not a citizen or a resident, closing schools, bars and nightclubs, delaying the start of the legislative session in Congress and then shuttering land and waterway borders.
But Duque’s government has been criticized for not enforcing controls at airports, as tourists have taken to social media to say they were not made aware of quarantine requirements upon landing.
Some provinces and municipalities in the Andean country have already put in place nightly curfews.
State-run oil company Ecopetrol has cut its planned investment for the year by $1.2 billion, while the government slashed bond issues by nearly $366 million.
Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Additional reporting and writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Kenneth Maxwell