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Chile slams shut borders against COVID-19 cases

April 1, 2021 GMT
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People stand in line to buy fish for Holy Week from the Central Market amid the coronavirus pandemic in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, April 1, 2021. The city reinstated a lockdown to help contain the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
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People stand in line to buy fish for Holy Week from the Central Market amid the coronavirus pandemic in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, April 1, 2021. The city reinstated a lockdown to help contain the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile has largely closed its borders to control surging COVID-19 cases despite a region-leading vaccine campaign, joining other South American countries in new moves to clamp down on movement.

The government said Thursday that even Chilean citizens would be unable to come and go through April and that truck drivers bringing essential goods would have to show a negative test for the new coronavirus. Other entries will be allowed only in extraordinary circumstances.

“It is a moment to take difficult measures and we need the efforts of all,” said Katherine Martorell, deputy secretary for crime prevention. “So the country’s borders are closed and trips abroad are restricted for the whole month of April for Chilean citizens as well as foreigners resident in the country.”

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The government also said Chileans will be limited to permits for a single trip out of the home per weekend to buy essential goods.

While more than 80 percent of Chile’s 19 million people already are under quarantine, the government so far has issued millions of daily passes for work or other necessities.

Chile has vaccinated more than a third of its population in less than two months, focusing on the elderly, But hospitalizations of other adults have been rising and officials say 96 percent of beds with ventilators are occupied.

The country has seen 1 million infections and 23,000 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, Bolivia said its border with virus-ravaged Brazil — its chief trading partner—will be tightly restricted for a week as of Friday in an effort to staunch the spread of a new virus variant first detected there. Crossings along the 3,400-kilometer (2,100-mile) border will be allowed for only three hours a day.

It also said plans for a massive vaccine campaign have been delayed by a month because doses have been slow to arrive.

Bolivia, a country of 11 million people, has recorded 12,257 deaths from the virus and more than 272.000 confirmed infections.

Argentina also tightened border restrictions last week., banning flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

On Wednesday, 80 Argentines were allowed into the country only after winning a court order after they had been stuck at a border crossing with Brazil for several days.