Chile quarantines 1,300 aboard two cruise ships

Airline staff wear protective masks at Santiago's international airport on March 14, 2020

Chile has quarantined more than 1,300 people aboard two cruise ships after an elderly Briton aboard one of them tested positive for the coronavirus, the health ministry announced Saturday.

Both ships are cruising the Chilean fjords in Patagonia.

The 85-year-old man showed symptoms of the virus after getting off the Silver Explorer ship in the far southern port of Caleta Tortel, 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) from Santiago.

The man was later transferred to a hospital in the city of Coyhaique where he tested positive for the virus.

"The ship is in quarantine off the port of Castro. The British citizen is in good condition but has tested positive for coronavirus," Health Minister Jaime Manalich told a press conference.

The other ship, the Azmara Pursuit -- with 665 passengers and nearly 400 crew -- had earlier crossed into Chilean waters from the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia.

Manalich said it was currently near the port of Chacabuco after authorities banned it from landing passengers there, on grounds that it was carrying suspected cases of the coronavirus.

The ship is on a 21-day cruise from Buenos Aires to Callao in Peru, just beside Lima.

The number of coronavirus cases in Chile reached 61 on Saturday, 18 more than on Friday.

Manalich said Chile is in Phase 3 of the crisis, with means that in addition to those infected with COVID-19 coming from abroad, there may be local cases.

"This means a more delicate situation from the epidemiological point of view in controlling the disease," he said.

Chile has taken broad measures against the spread of the virus, banning events of more than 500 people, recommending people work from home, and ordering the quarantine of 2,600 students attending an elite private school in Santiago.

In other developments around Latin America on Saturday, Colombia expelled two French nationals and two Spaniards for violating coronavirus quarantine rules.

The two couples separately took tourist trips in defiance of restrictions imposed on visitors from the worst-affected countries, immigration officials said.

Ecuador announced it was closing its borders to foreigners after the country registered its second coronavirus death.

In Bolivia, a ban on direct flights to and from Europe went into effect on Saturday. Travelers from China, South Korea, Italy and Spain are also banned from entry.

Panama banned flights from Asia, one day after blocking flights from Europe.

Authorities also announced that schools will shutter in Venezuela, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay.

As of 2200 GMT Saturday, Latin America had registered 6 coronavirus deaths and 430 cases of infection.

Airline staff wear protective masks at Santiago's international airport on March 14, 2020