Like so many countries throughout the world, Guatemala was not able to avoid the arrival of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As a medical mission organization, a significant portion of our volunteers and supporters are healthcare providers and we continue to pray for your strength and protection caring for patients (and your own families and communities) at home in the United States but we also know that you carry Guatemala in your hearts and have been curious about recent news and events. We will continue to refresh this page with updates of COVID-19 here in Guatemala to keep you informed.
For up-to-date information on the number of cases in Guatemala, please check the Guatemalan Government website.
Guatemala reopened its borders in mid-September 2020. All incoming travelers are required to present a negative PCR or Antigen test upon arrival. The government continues to mandate the use of masks in public, hand-washing and social distancing. Entry into most centers of commerce require the use of antibacterial gel and a temperature check.
Here is a link to the US Embassy in Guatemala’s website with more detailed information on the health alert color system.
The following is a summary of developments and events in relation to COVID-19 in Guatemala:
- On March 12, in anticipation of the quickly spreading virus, the Guatemalan government announced travel entry bans to citizens of all European countries, Iran, China and South Korea.
- The following day, Friday, March 13 the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in a Guatemalan national who had traveled from Italy to Guatemala with two other family members. All those potentially exposed were placed in quarantine.
- The same day, the Guatemalan government extended travel restrictions to include the United States and Canada to begin March 16 and be in effect through at least March 31. Any traveler arriving to Guatemala was subject to a mandatory 15-day quarantine.
- A couple of days later additional individuals tested positive for COVID-19 after having returned to Guatemala from international travel. One individual from that group, an 85-year-old man had been showing marked deterioration in respiratory function and subsequently died from cardiopulmonary shock.
- On April 5 it was announced that there were five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Patzún, Chimaltenango department. These are the first reported cases of community-spread occurrences (those who had no contact with people who had contracted the virus abroad and then traveled back to Guatemala).
Government Response and Actions:
- The national hospital in Villa Nueva (Guatemala City) was designated specifically for COVID-19 patients and quarantine.
- A temporary hospital was constructed in Parque de la Industria with 319 beds (48 designated ICU beds) but with the ability/capacity to grow total number of beds to 3,000.
- Two national hotlines were put in place to encourage people to first call regarding symptoms (rather than traveling to emergency rooms) and, where possible, healthcare providers would be sent out to evaluate patients for diagnosis.
- In order to promote social distancing, President Alejandro Giammattei, announced the following restrictions on March 13 in an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus:
- Air, land and see borders closed to incoming foreign travelers
- Events of all types and sizes cancelled, including:
- Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions and activities
- Sports, cultural and social activities
- All urban and extra-urban public transit prohibited
- No visitors allowed in all institutions that care for elderly persons
- All shopping centers, bars, clubs are closed (restaurants permitted to serve through take-out windows or home delivery only; no dine-in access).
- Mandatory, country-wide curfew in effect between 4pm and 4am. No one is allowed outside of their home.
- Hoarding of essential items, goods and medicines is prohibited (as well as price gouging).
- On April 4, President Giammattei announced further restrictions to extend through Semana Santa, including a domestic travel ban between departments (states) throughout Guatemala. Beaches, parks, and lakes have been closed and check points established to monitor activity.
- An 11 billion quetzales (approx. 1.4 billion USD) emergency relief plan was announced and approved to provide economic aid. Details pending.
- On April 5, in response to the reported community-spread cases of COVID-19, the entire population of Patzún has been mandated to quarantine until further notice. On Wednesday, May 6 the mandated quarantine of Patzún was lifted as no further community-cases cases were reported.
- Throughout May and June, numerous hours of rolling “toque de queda” (curfew) were enforced, including some complete weekends from Friday evening to Monday morning.
The Clinic in Sarstún
Throughout this Coronavirus crisis, our local staff in Sarstún and the clinic committee have worked diligently to educate the local communities on prevention measures and detection of COVID-19 symptoms. Food bags have been distributed to families in need and the teachers have been working in a remote-instruction format.