(REUTERS) – Haiti’s government on Thursday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, closing the borders of the Americas’ poorest nation and imposing a curfew after authorities detected the first two cases of infection.
President Jovenel Moise told a news conference that all the Caribbean country’s ports, airports and borders would be closed to people from midnight on Thursday, though they would remain open for goods traffic.
Schools, universities, places of worship and industrial parks would be closed, and a curfew would be in force from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. as of Friday, he added.
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 a bid 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.
More than half the population lives under the poverty line of $2.41 per day, according to the World Bank, and the country is only just recovering from a nine-year cholera outbreak that the United Nations said killed nearly 10,000.