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SOUTH AMERICA

Virus cluster concerns for French Guiana town bordering Brazil

The President of Guyane territorial collectivity (Collectivité Territoriale de Guyane) Rodolphe Alexandre tells reporters schools will not open on the French territory after lockdown restrictions are eased.
The President of Guyane territorial collectivity (Collectivité Territoriale de Guyane) Rodolphe Alexandre tells reporters schools will not open on the French territory after lockdown restrictions are eased. AFP - JODY AMIET

Authorities in French Guiana, on the north-eastern coast of South America, fear the coronavirus epidemic is set to worsen after 67 new cases were confirmed over the weekend in the French overseas territory.

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As with the rest of France, lockdown restrictions in Guiana – which has a population of 300,000 – were eased on 11 May.

Figures show the number of people infected by the virus has increased by 128 percent over the last 14 days. The territory now has 328 cases as opposed to the 144 cases reported on 10 May.

"We are heading more and more towards the stage 3 of the epidemic," said Dr Mirdad Kazanji, director of the Pasteur Institute in the capital Cayenne, were the majority of testing is carried out.

Twenty-seven new cases were recorded in the town of Saint Georges Oyapock bordering Brazil – the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases, at 363,211, behind the United States.

The situation has been described as “serious” in the only town in Guiana still under strict lockdown, where residents are no longer allowed to cross the river to buy food.

For months indigenous leaders from across South America have been warning the virus poses an "existential threat" to their communities - many of which are invaded by miners, drug traffickers, loggers and tourists - asking government for protection.

The vast majority of French Guiana is made up of uninhabited rainforest, there are fears the virus will take its toll in poor neighbourhoods, where sanitary conditions are below par and mask wearing is rare.

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