With first case, Latin America prepares for COVID-19 virus

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A passenger wearing a mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 arrives to the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

With Brazil reporting the first case of the COVID-19 virus, neighboring countries and other nations around Latin America were attempting to block the possible arrival of the virus.

A glance at efforts across the region:

— Peru was maintaining a team of specialists working around-the-clock shifts at Jorge Chávez International Airport, the main port of entry for overseas travelers. Passengers with possible symptoms of COVID-19 were being transferred to an isolation ward in a nearby hospital. The country's health ministry said five hospitals were prepared to receive patients and the country had the laboratory equipment necessary to diagnose cases of the virus within 24 hours.

— Argentine Health Minister Ginés González García called on citizens to immediately report any flu-like symptom, saying self-reporting was the country's strongest tool against the disease but warning against panic. Argentina has strong ties to Italy and 10 flights a day to or from that country. Passengers arriving from Italy were having their temperatures taken and asked to sign forms declaring if they've had flu-like symptoms or not. Suspected COVID-19 patients were being hospitalized.

— Puerto Rico’s government established a task force charged with creating guidelines to be followed in the event of the virus reaching the U.S. territory. The guidelines have already been sent to all of the island’s hospitals and epidemiologists, and health care professionals are responsible for immediately reporting any suspected case to the regional epidemiologist, said Health Secretary Dr. Rafael Rodríguez.

“We want to alert Puerto Ricans to implement these measures to avoid having this illness enter our territory,” he said. “The common goal is to respond in unison and proactively to the potential entry of the virus, avoiding improvisation.”

— Venezuela, where the health system has been gravely degraded by years of economic crisis, was asking passengers to fill out health questionnaires upon arrival at Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía, the main international airport, and was working on extending vigilance to other ports of entry.

— Chile announced a health emergency and measures including the purchase of millions of masks and protective outfits for health workers. Teams in the country's main airport were examining passengers arriving from zones with the virus.