U.S. flights returning Guatemalan deportees halted after infection report

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Flights deporting Guatemalan migrants from the United States will again be temporarily suspended, Guatemala’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, after a mass infection of the new coronavirus was reported on a recent flight.

The Associated Press reported 44 of 76 Guatemalan migrants who arrived in the country on a U.S. deportation flight on Monday subsequently tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus that causes a respiratory illness.

When contacted by Reuters, the government did not immediately confirm the report, which cited an unnamed Guatemalan official.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry confirmed deportation flights have been temporarily suspended but gave no further details.

Later on Thursday, a spokesman for the presidency said Guatemala would test deportees again regardless of whether they had been tested before.

“Guatemala is working with U.S. authorities to evaluate the health status of Guatemalans returned in recent days,” he added.

Deportation flights had only started again on Monday after a five-day suspension. The health ministry says that in total, five deportees have tested positive for the virus since March.

Guatemala has so far registered 214 coronavirus cases and seven deaths.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said it closely follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Currently, CDC is on the ground in Guatemala to review and validate the COVID-19 tests performed on those arriving from ICE Air flights,” she said.

“Once results are available, ICE will determine whether to re-evaluate current medical procedures with CDC guidance to ensure that any newly necessary practices are implemented.”

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