Roundup: LatAm takes tougher steps to curb COVID-19

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MEXICO CITY, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Countries in Latin America on Wednesday stepped up measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as infection rates continued to climb.

In Cuba, authorities suspended public transportation in the country's 15 provinces, including bus lines, trains and flights, and also grounded private transport services in multiple regions.

"Any exception to these measures will be evaluated by a working team and regional officials," said Transport Minister Eduardo Rodriguez Davila on Tuesday, when he announced the move.

Ferries to the Isle of Youth, the second-largest Cuban island, were to be suspended starting Thursday. Passengers who already purchased tickets would be able to get a refund over the next three months, officials said.

Urban mass transit systems continue to function, so people can get to work. The measures follow the Caribbean island's decision to halt all tourism, a key generator of much-needed foreign revenue.

Cuba has reported 57 confirmed cases of infection and the death of a 61-year-old Italian tourist.

Colombia, where 470 cases have been reported, launched a nationwide lockdown through April 13.

Depending on "how the virus behaves" after that date, the government will decide whether to resume classes and ease other restrictions, said President Ivan Duque.

"If we see that we are not obtaining our main objective, we will have to keep tightening certain measures and taking more drastic steps," Duque added.

Colombia's National Police chief Oscar Atehortua said 269 people around the country had been fined in the initial hours of the mandatory quarantine for failing to self-isolate.

In Argentina, more than 2,000 people have been arrested for violating the requirements of quarantine since a countrywide lockdown took effect on Monday, officials said.

At a meeting of the Emergency Operating Committee, the National Security Ministry reported 2,226 arrests "for circulating without corresponding justification."

Some 41,346 people received warnings for circulating without a permit and 600 vehicles were impounded.

At the meeting, "reinforcements and other measures we are going to take to restrict the circulation of private vehicles much more, especially at access points between the metropolitan area and the city of Buenos Aires" were discussed, said National Security Minister Sabina Frederic.

"These controls are not only going to stay in place; we are going to introduce new mechanisms to make them much more effective," Frederic added.

The country has 387 confirmed coronavirus cases and two deaths across 18 provinces.

Meanwhile, Brazil's major cities and the federal district have imposed mandatory quarantine to varying degrees on non-essential commercial businesses and services.

As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 57 people have died of the virus in Brazil, while the number of confirmed cases reached 2,433, according to its Health Ministry.

Additionally, several countries have seen an increase in cases, including Peru, which reported 64 new cases, bringing its total to 480, and Costa Rica, which reported 24 more cases with a total of 201.

Ecuador, with the region's second highest infection and death rates after Brazil, has reported a total of 1,211 cases and 29 deaths, and Mexico has detected 405 cases, with five fatalities.

Five countries in Latin America, namely Panama, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru are experiencing community transmission of the disease, while a majority have clusters of cases or only sporadic cases, according to a report released by the Pan American Health Organization on Wednesday. Enditem

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