FILE - People carry items into Haiti from the Dominican Republic in Malpasse, Haiti, April 1, 2010.
FILE - People carry items into Haiti from the Dominican Republic in Malpasse, Haiti, April 1, 2010.

WASHINGTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haiti will close its border with the Dominican Republic as of midnight on Monday, Prime Minister Jouthe Joseph announced Sunday.   

Joseph said an exception is being made for merchandise, which will still be allowed across the border after screening.  He said Dominican officials will test those aboard the vehicles prior to entering Haiti, and Haitian health officials will also test them upon entry.   
The move aims to keep the coronavirus, which has sickened 11 people in the neighboring Dominican Republic, out.  So far Haiti has no confirmed cases of the deadly disease. The country's first suspected case, an unidentified foreign woman who had traveled to one of the countries where the coronavirus has spread, tested negative for the disease. 

Haiti’s Prime Minister Jouthe Joseph announces tighter travel restriction will go into effect Monday March 16 at midnight. (Renan Toussaint / VOA Creole)


“We are asking people to take this pandemic very seriously,” Joseph said. “We are asking for the cooperation of all Haitian citizens as well as foreigners living in Haiti.” 

The prime minister announced that Haiti is also suspending all flights from Europe and Latin America. Flights from the United States are under evaluation, he said.  
“We are evaluating fights between Port-au-Prince and New York, Port-au-Prince and Miami, Cape Haitian and Miami, Cape Haitian and Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “We have an agreement with American air transportation officials that all passengers boarding planes for Haiti must be screened for coronavirus.” 
He said Public Health officials at the nation’s two international airports - in Port-au-Prince and Cape Haitian  - are already screening passengers for the virus upon arrival. Quarantine facilities have also been set up for passengers who exhibit flu-like symptoms. They will be required to fill out a special form, regarding the disease.  
“If you are asked to undergo testing or if you are ordered to be quarantined, we urge you to cooperate.  Don’t be angry, this is being done to protect our country,” he said. 

A Public Health Ministry nurse measures the temperature of a passenger arriving from France, at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 4, 2020.

Joseph appealed to avoid traveling outside of the country, unless it’s an emergency. 
“We urge all Haitians to avoid all non-essential travel. Do not travel to any foreign country unless it’s urgent that you do so,” Joseph said.  

According to the prime minister, the extra measures to reinforce the country’s land and maritime borders and its airports have been successful in keeping the pandemic out so far.    

In addition to new restrictions affecting civilian travel, the prime minister said the government has cancelled all official travel.  Joseph said any official who wants to travel abroad must first get approval from either President Jovenel Moise, the prime minister or the foreign minister.  

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