Latin America COVID-19 On-the-Ground Reports as of March 20
When we learned that the virus had reached pandemic proportions, I contacted our Latin American national missionaries, workshop coordinators and interpreters to discover the conditions in each country. Here's what they said at that time which is now three weeks past. I am staying in touch and will seek to update their reports in the near future. Please keep these countries in your prayers.
Haiti’s government on Thursday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, closing the borders and imposing a curfew after authorities detected the first two cases of infection. Haiti was one of the last Caribbean nations to remain coronavirus-free and had suspended flights from Europe, Latin America and Canada and imposed major restrictions on the border with the neighboring Dominican Republic earlier this week in an attempt to prevent the disease’s entry. The country struggles to deal with serious outbreaks of disease because of a lack of sanitation infrastructure and inadequate healthcare services. One of the key recommendations for staving off coronavirus is to wash hands frequently with soap and water, but most Haitians do not have running water.
The government is reporting seven cases of Coronavirus, but we never know the truth. The most dangerous issue is that the government still has the borders (air and sea) open, and they are promoting tourism in Cuba. So people from Europe, China, Spain, etc. are continuing to come into Cuba. This is very risky because although the government is portraying Cuba as a "paradise" and declaring that the public health is the "best," the reality is that right now there is no medicine, hospitals are a mess, there is no soap, and we are making face masks in our homes using old clothing. Conditions are awful because there is almost no food in any store. I don’t have money to face the terrible situation. It is better to buy much food to avoid contact with people, but to do so I need stand in a long line.
The situation in Venezuela for now does not appear very serious to those on the outside since we only have thirty-three cases. But I attribute it to two main reasons. First, we already have "flights isolation," because only a handful of airlines enter Venezuela, many no longer want to work here for economic or political reasons, and others were expelled. And secondly, because the current political regime which controls the power, the media and the Armed Forces, does not report the reality, which is typical of communist governments. I really think there must be many more cases. There is already a quarantine in the regions of the country where there are infected people. But we are more scared because the economy and the national health system was already in crisis well before the arrival of the Coronavirus. We are required to have five days of quarantine at this point, so we have to wait to really understand how bad the situation is here. We'll find out from the social networks because the regime will never tell us the truth. But in spite of everything, my family and I are fine, the church is fine too. Let's trust in the Lord who will keep us and provide everything we need, pray for all of us.
There is a curfew in the whole city from 6 pm to 4 am. This weekend the curfew will last 48 straight hours. So far there are 128 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A state of emergency has been declared for the entire country, but no deaths have been reported yet. The situation is quite difficult economically for many people.
The situation is complicated. The President has declared a curfew. That means people cannot leave their homes from 4pm - 5am. At other times (5am - 4pm) people can go out only to purchase medicine and basic necessities and go to the hospitals. This will be for two months! All church activity and subsequent Christian meetings have been canceled.
Last night the President announced that the first person with COVID-19 was found in the northeast end of El Salvador. The person came from Italy and was immediately put on medical observance. There are many regulations set forth by executive order, but I think most of the people are obeying them. The leaders of the country have been working on hospital capacity. More than 2000 beds are being prepared for the emergency, and they are trying to equip two more hospitals so they can deal with all the cases. We still do not have enough of beds, and all doctors and nurses have been forced to work around the clock.
We are being quarantined for fifteen days. No schools, work, churches, etc. All our mission trips were cancelled. Pray for my parents who still work in their newsstands. Newspapers are important because people need information. They have closed all the borders and made us close every business for fifteen days. A state of emergency has been declared until April 1st, so no one can leave home, all meetings are suspended, and no one can work or go outside. The cost of living has gone up tremendously.
The number of infections in Chile with COVID-19 has risen to 203 persons. This situation has caused changes in the workshop schedule because meetings of any type have been suspended. Most of the churches in Chile will not get back to normal until April.
There are for now 202 cases in the Dominican Republic and three cases in our city of La Romana. We are quarantined, taking advantage of praying for the world and taking appropriate measures to avoid being infected. We have curbed church activities. We created a WhatsApp group to communicate with the church membership, send advice and reflections so as not to lose faith in our God. We are doing the best to avoid it - everybody stays at home.
We have not yet recorded any case in our church, but there are four cases of infection in our city.
So far, no cases of the virus have been reported in our country. But most businesses are very slow due to the tourist business being down. When tourism is down people do not have work (no cruise ships are allowed to come to Belize). Tourism is one of the main ways Belize brings in income. When people do not have jobs, crime increases. Last weekend eleven people were shot in the Belize City area and today eighty gang members were arrested.