The Dominican Republic is shutting its borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, effectively cutting off one of New York’s biggest communities from its homeland.
President Danilo Medina said he will halt all incoming travel by “air, land or sea” to the Caribbean nation as of 6 a.m. Thursday.
“I will … (ask Congress to) declare a national emergency and I trust I will have their approval,” Medina said during a press conference, according to local media.
The move forced the cancellation of dozens of daily flights from the United States mainland and Puerto Rico.
“We will only permit entry of planes and ferries for the departure of foreign visitors who want to return to their home country,” Medina said, adding that cargo ships would be allowed to dock to bring supplies to the island nation of about 10 million people.
Haiti closed its land border with the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
One person has died in the Dominican Republic so far and 21 people have tested positive for coronavirus.
Schools are closed till April 12 and those over 60 years old or with compromised health are being ordered to stay indoors.
JetBlue, one of the largest carriers to fly to the island, on Wednesday said it had not yet canceled any flights. But that same afternoon on its flight tracker, all planes from New York’s JFK airport to the capital city of Santo Domingo were listed as canceled.
One woman who planned to travel to Santo Domingo on a JetBlue flight on Thursday got a notice at 5 p.m. from the carrier that her flight was canceled ― but no reason was given.
“We apologize for the disruption to your travel plans. We are currently looking at other flight options for you and will send you an update shortly,” the automated message said.