Fears of coronavirus are on the rise in South America after Argentina confirmed it was introducing new precautionary measures against the disease in light of a scare in El Calafate, while Brazil confirmed the first Latin American diagnosis of the virus in São Paulo on Wednesday.
An Italian tourist with suspicious symptoms sparked the activation of the Health Ministry's coronavirus protocol in the Santa Cruz Province city of El Calafate, though a first examination would indicate that the individual is not suffering from the condition.
The woman, who has now been diagnosed with adenovirus, is a part of a contingent made up of about 40 people. The Italian citizen was taken to the SAMIC Hospital in Calafate, while suffering from dry cough and fever.
In the wake of increasing cases of coronavirus in Italy, the Argentine Government began implementing greater controls on Tuesday to detect potential cases of the disease on flights from Italy. Ezeiza International Airport has also ramped up its precautionary measures.
Hours before measures were applied, Health Minister Ginés González García stated: “We are going to apply a different protocol to passengers who come from Italy. They will land on a different platform and there they will have different controls. They will also sign an affidavit saying that they have not felt any kind of symptoms.”
He confirmed later on Thursday that no-one had been diagnosed with the virus in Argentina.
Every week, 12 direct flights from Italy arrive at Ezeiza. An additional number of passengers arrive weekly from the same European destination via connections, particularly through Spain or Brazil.
Brazil confirms coronavirus case
Meanwhile, Brazil's Health Ministry said on Wednesday a São Paulo resident has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the first such case recorded in Latin America.
The 61-year-old patient had returned on February 21 from the Lombardy region of Italy, the epicenter of an outbreak in the European country, Brazil's Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said.
The official said authorities were trying to identify people that had been in contact with the patient as well as his family members.
The man had visited a doctor complaining of flu symptoms. He has been placed in home isolation but is said to be "fine."
Another 20 cases are under investigation, said Health Ministry official Wanderson Kleber de Oliveira.
Twelve of those had travelled to Brazil from Italy and one had been in China, the origin of the outbreak.
Before confirming the case, Mandetta had spoken to CBN radio station downplaying the virus as a simple "flu."
"We need to stay calm, it's a flu and we'll overcome it," he said.
However, he added that it was a virus that appeared in a northern hemisphere winter and there was no way to predict how it would react to a southern hemisphere summer.
"It could be better, or worse," he said.
Coronavirus has killed over 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000, the vast majority in China.