Coronavirus: Colombia and Singapore report first deaths, Singapore to close borders from March 24
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has infected at least 307,200 people and killed more than 13,000 in confirmed cases worldwide. On March 21, Singapore recorded its first two deaths and Columbia reported its first death from the virus.
The city-state of Singapore with a population of nearly 6M people has recorded 432 confirmed cases so far. On March 21, it reported that a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and an Indonesian visitor, 64, had succumbed to the virus.
Meanwhile, in Colombia, officials announced the first death in the country. The victim was a 58-year-old taxi driver who drove around tourists from Italy. Colombia's Ministry of Health says the man had previous health issues including untreated diabetes. The South American country has 210 confirmed cases of the virus.
Singapore had banned visitors from several countries and requires all short-term visitors to observe a 14-day home quarantine. However, in light of the first two deaths reported in the country, the government said beginning March 24, all short-term visitors will be barred from entering or transiting through the country.
In a statement on March 22, it said this will reduce the risk of imported cases and free up resources to focus on its citizens. It said Singapore citizens, permanent residents and foreigners with a long-term work pass can return but must undergo a 14-day self-quarantine, according to the Associated Press.
Colombia is also adapting similar measures after President Iván Duque Márquez prohibited all non-resident foreigners from entering the country and decreed a mandatory quarantine starting March 24. Earlier this week, the government closed all land, sea and river borders until May 30. It also has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered bars and night clubs to shut.
On March 21, Italy reported 793 people had died due to the virus, its worst death toll increase in a day, taking the country's total death toll to 4,825. There are 53,578 confirmed cases.
The soaring numbers come despite a national lockdown that drastically limits when residents are allowed to leave their homes. Police have issued citations to thousands of people for being out without valid reasons, such as going to work or shopping for food.
Singapore and Colombia join a growing list of countries imposing travel bans. The EU had proposed that all non-essential travel should be suspended to the European Union for 30 days, affecting travel from outside the EU. The UK was exempted.
Albania and Slovenia have suspended all flights while Austria stopped direct air travel between the country and the UK. Austria has also stopped all direct air and rail connections from Austria to Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland.
The United States has banned entry to UK travelers and has closed its border with Canada to non-essential travel from March 20. Some flights have been suspended. Canada has taken similar measures.
Australia closed all borders on March 20 and could remain closed for at least six months to non-citizens and residents. New Zealand has imposed a ban on entry to all UK travelers from March 19.