Colombian President Ivan Duque announced Friday a countrywide lockdown as it seeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The quarantine beginning March 25 will last 19 days. The capital of Bogota and other regions began holding four-day quarantine drills Friday through the weekend.

“It is time to understand that our behavior saves lives,” said Duque during a televised address where he described measures as tough but urgent to protect lives. “The measure seeks to protect us as a society, guaranteeing the supply of food, access to medicines, and essential public services.”

Health unions sent a letter to Duque this week asking him to “raise the level of restrictions to a defined isolation time with the relevant exceptions,” because, they say, “it has been the most effective tool to control the pandemic.”

Colombia has 158 confirmed cases and no deaths recorded, according to the Ministry of Health.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 166 countries and territories, killing more than 11,000.



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