Every deportation flight from the U.S. is an 'alarm bell' as Central American countries brace for coronavirus

Tim O'Donnell
·1 min read

Central American countries are on edge as deportation flights from the United States arrive in the region with passengers who have tested positive for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, The Associated Press reports.

Because the United States has only tested a limited number of detained immigrants for the virus, there are fears that its spread throughout the U.S. detention centers is much wider than has been reported. Subsequently, that could mean that countries like Guatemala, where more than 1,600 people have returned after being deported from the U.S., could have an unknown number of undetected cases.

Earlier this week, Guatemala's Health Minister Hugo Monroy said at least half of all deportees from the U.S. tested positive, including many who did not exhibit symptoms, while President Alejandro Giammattei said Friday he was suspending deportation flights after numerous passengers that arrived this week were confirmed to be carrying the virus.

Guatemala and other countries like Honduras and El Salvador have instituted quarantine measures, to varying degrees, but there's still a fair amount of worry because of the vulnerable state of their health-care systems. César Ríos, the director of the non-governmental Salvadoran Institute of Migration, said every arriving deportation plane is "an alarm bell" for the region. Dr. Michele Heisler, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, warned Guatemala "will be overwhelmed" because of the U.S.'s "irresponsible" actions. Read more at The Associated Press.

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