Uruguay confirmed its first four tested cases of coronavirus on Friday, the Ministry of Health announced in a tweet. All four cases were people who had arrived to Uruguay from Milan, Italy between March 3 and March 6, the ministry said, adding that the patients are stable and at their homes.
In the evening president Luis Lacalle Pou and his cabinet announced a raft of dynamic measures, which can change as events evolve, but basically pointed out to a partial closure of the country's borders, a ban of all public events, social, concerts, sports, but schools will remain open and it's up to the parents to send the children not.
Previous to the announcement Lacalle Pou met with the leaders of his ¨multicolor coalition¨ and from the opposition to listen to suggestions and ensure a united front in the battle against Covid-19.
The partial closure of borders means travelers coming from high risk countries (Far East and Europe) will not be allowed in, and all those arriving by air, sea or land will be strictly monitored. It also appealed to returning residents, if they have any of the virus symptoms, to self isolate themselves and later call for a doctor, as recommended by WHO and recent experiences in the hard hit countries.
Public schools will remain open, it is optional for parents to send the children, and there will be no formal loss of classes for not attending. However the main university declared it was closing all its Departments during the next week.
The announced measures will apply until after Easter, when they will again be reviewed.
The so called vulnerable population, 65 years plus are strongly suggested to remain at home and even avoid going shopping.
Despite the unanimous support from all the political spectrum, president Lacalle Pou emphasized that containing or overcoming the situation was above all a personal commitment and responsibility, from every citizen abiding rules and suggestions.
As in the rest of the world some of the immediate consequences of the announcements of the first positive cases of Covid 19 was a run on supermarket stalls, and a cancelling of overseas trips with travel agencies overwhelmed.
Of the four cases tested positive, two are from Montevideo and two from Salto, to the north of Uruguay, and they arrived from Italy sometime between March 3 and 6. They were not checked at the Carrasco airport, and one of them, a lady, the evening of her arrival attended a major wedding with some five hundred guests.
Two days later the coronavirus symptoms became evident. The big question now is what about the hundreds she mingled with at the wedding.
Another major virus related event also occurred on Friday. A cruise vessel with 3.000 passengers, MSC Poesia, was not allowed to disembark in the Atlantic resort of Punta del Este. She had to return to Buenos Aires, but not because of any positive cases. In effect the port of Punta del Este does not have the docking infrastructure or sanitary barriers to monitor so many visitors.
Tourism minister German Cardoso revealed that after consultations with the Health ministry it was decided to turn the vessel back because we simply could not implement or abide by the WHO protocols; it's most unfortunate, but that is the truth.
However the WHO protocol was applied in Montevideo harbor, which has all the necessary facilities and the Viking Jupiter visitors were able to disembark and spend the day in Uruguay's capital.