March 14, 2020 / 8:34 PM / 14 days ago

Colombia to expel four European visitors for violating quarantine

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will expel four Europeans for violating compulsory quarantine protocols designed to halt the spread of coronavirus, just hours after it closed its border with Venezuela, the government said on Saturday.

Two men and two women of French and Spanish nationality will be deported after ignoring mandatory instructions to isolate themselves and leaving their hotels, against the warnings of staff, the migration agency said.

Colombia has so far reported 22 cases of COVID-19 and has declared a health emergency to contain the disease. Measures include suspending public gatherings of more than 500 people and blocking cruise ships from entering its ports.

On Friday President Ivan Duque said Colombia would close its border with Venezuela starting Saturday morning, while arrivals who are not residents or nationals and have stayed in Europe or Asia during the last two weeks will not be allowed to enter from Monday.

The decision to close the border was criticized by Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, who in a Saturday broadcast on state television said all arrivals from Europe to Venezuela in March should observe a two-week quarantine.

Colombia had previously asked visitors from France, Spain, Italy and China to self isolate for two weeks upon arrival.

Among the measures taken in Colombia to curb the spread of the disease, Cine Colombia, one of the largest cinema operators in the country, on Saturday said it would close all of its sites for the next 10 days. Soccer and events organizers have also suspended matches and concerts.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota and Angus Berwick in Caracas; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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