A member of the Argentine border police and a health worker take the temperature of a driver and his passenger, for precaution due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Buenos Aires. AFP/VNA Photo
BUENOS AIRES — Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Thursday announced a "preventative and compulsory" lockdown of the population from Friday to March 31 to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are taking care of the health of Argentines," he said in a speech.
Also on Thursday South America's biggest country Brazil announced it was closing land borders to nearly all its neighbours to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as Mexico reported its first virus death.
People in several cities in Colombia and Brazil mounted pot-banging "cacerolazo" protests from apartment balconies against the failure of their governments to act quickly against the pandemic.
Chile, rocked by months of social protests, unveiled an $11.75 billion economic stimulus package to cope with the effects of the virus on the giant copper producer.
Meanwhile, a plane operated by Spanish carrier Iberia sent to Ecuador to pick up stranded foreigners was prevented from landing at an airport in Guayaquil, which is under lockdown.
Cynthia Viteri, mayor of Ecuador's second city, said she ordered vehicles to block the runway of the international airport to prevent the plane from landing.
The flight from Madrid, with only crew aboard, was able to land later in Quito.
Ecuador has banned all flights since Monday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Mexico reported its first coronavirus death -- a 41-year-old man with diabetes who died Wednesday in Mexico City. Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection.
Latin America has so far recorded 1,921 cases and 18 deaths.
Chile stimulus plans
Chile's stimulus plan "will strengthen our ability to face the health, economic and social needs that the coronavirus pandemic is signifying and that will probably tend to worsen in the future," President Sebastian Pinera told a press conference.
Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced a lockdown of Chile's Easter Island, saying no one could enter or leave the remote Pacific island for the next two weeks.
Manalich said that though none of the island's 7,000 population had the disease, many people from the island were trying to return and risked carrying the virus back with them.
Chile has registered 342 cases of the virus to date.
Colombia will block all international flights from Monday for 30 days, President Ivan Duque announced on Thursday.
"As of 00:00 hours on March 23, the arrival of all international passenger flights to the country's airports is prohibited," the president wrote on Twitter.
Duque said the shutout was necessary because some people who had entered the country had tried to avoid mandatory quarantine regulations.
Colombia closed its land and sea borders on Tuesday. — AFP