BRASILIA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Donning a surgical mask, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday warned Brazilians of "difficult days" ahead as the number of people infected with COVID-19 has been on the rise.
Bolsonaro gave his first press conference on the global pandemic, accompanied by top aides who also wore surgical masks. Three of his ministers have tested positive for the virus.
"With basic hygiene measures, we can flatten the curve of the epidemic so we can give those who need it quality attention," said Bolsonaro.
The number of confirmed cases in Brazil has climbed to 512, with four fatalities.
In neighboring Argentina, health officials reported 19 new cases, bringing the total to 97, with two fatalities.
Its capital Buenos Aires announced a temporary closing of some businesses to limit contact and slow the spread of the disease, as well as a plan to allow non-essential public-sector employees to work from home, including pregnant women and those over 60 or with underlying health issues.
"We are going to continue to take steps to guarantee a decrease in the circulation and concentration of people," said Felipe Miguel, the local government's chief of staff.
Among the businesses that remain closed are dance halls, sports clubs, casinos, game centers and theaters.
Costa Rica reported a total of 69 cases, 19 more than that of Tuesday, including its first fatal victim, an 87-year-old man.
The Panamanian government decreed a nationwide curfew starting at 9 p.m. and lasting till 5 a.m. local time.
Ecuador extended its curfew hours in the southwestern province of Guayas, which reported the majority of the country's 168 cases.
In Guayas, residents now must stay indoors from 4 p.m. until 5 a.m., while the curfew spanned from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. previously.
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