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Mexico rejects El Salvador accusation it let coronavirus patients board plane

Reuters | Updated: 17-03-2020 07:31 IST | Created: 17-03-2020 07:31 IST
Mexico rejects El Salvador accusation it let coronavirus patients board plane

Mexico rejected an accusation by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele on Monday that it had allowed a dozen people with coronavirus to board a flight to San Salvador, saying medical staff had found no evidence of the virus on the travelers.

Earlier, Bukele abruptly suspended all passenger flights to El Salvador after making his coronavirus assertion on Twitter, describing Mexican authorities as "irresponsible." The Salvadoran president did not provide evidence for the claim, which Mexican Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said turned out to be "totally false."

In an evening news conference, Lopez-Gatell explained that 12 Salvadorans en route to San Salvador from Chicago had raised suspicions because they were wearing protective masks. Tests showed that none of them had the virus, he added. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard replied directly to Bukele on Twitter with news that medical authorities had determined the passengers for the Avianca flight were free of coronavirus.

"You will be delighted. Best regards," Ebrard wrote. Bukele made his complaint before the flight took off. Avianca canceled the flight and said the passengers had not boarded. The airline later issued tweets thanking Bukele for alerting it to the presence of coronavirus patients on the passenger list.

Bukele said his government was working on a new set of protocols to allow flights to resume through San Salvador airport, which is a connection point for flights to other Central American countries.


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