Ecuador to keep land border with Peru shut to try stop Omicron spread

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FILE PHOTO: A Peruvian police stand guard at the Peruvian border with Ecuador, after a new migration law was imposed for all Venezuelan migrants to have valid visas and passports, in Tumbes

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it would keep the country's border with Peru closed in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus' Omicron variant.

Peru announced that as of Dec. 1, it would open its land border for residents and non-residents coming from Ecuador and Chile, complying with the protocols of the country's health authority.

"The Ecuadorian foreign ministry reiterates the decision to keep the land border with Peru closed, as a prevention and control response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its new variants," the ministry said in a statement.

"The country's authorities maintain frequent communication with their Peruvian counterparts, so that the reopening of the borders is carried out gradually and in an orderly manner," it added.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso announced on Monday night that he plans to gradually open the border with Colombia starting Wednesday, allowing cargo and commercial goods to cross.

Ecuador has accelerated its plans to dole out booster vaccine shots given the omicron variant's advance through several countries.

The booster shots, scheduled to start on January 1, 2022, will now begin being distributed Dec. 1, Health Minister Ximena Garzon told reporters.

By the end of December Ecuador hopes to vaccinate 85% of its population, including minors from the age of five.

The Andean nation also barred travelers from several African countries, including South Africa, from entering the county. It will now require a vaccination certificate along with a negative PCR test for those arriving from other nations by air, land or sea.

Ecuador has reported more than 526,800 cases of COVID infections and 33,250 confirmed deaths from coronavirus, according to official data.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian)

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