Border crossing between Bolivia and Chile closed due to covid cases

La Paz, Jan 21 (EFE) .- The main border crossing between Bolivia and Chile was enabled this Friday after the momentary closure due to cases of covid-19 at the checkpoint on the Chilean side, a situation that for several days has affected at least 2,500 drivers who were stranded at various border points with the neighboring country.

The Bolivian Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Benjamín Blanco, pointed out that around nine Chilean officials, including customs workers, doctors and police officers, tested positive for covid-19 and that «the lack of personnel in Chile motivated the closure of the border» between this Thursday and today.

In a statement from the Bolivian Foreign Ministry, Blanco mentioned that «due to the situation of the pandemic in the region» the capacity at the Chilean border control posts has been reduced, something that has not only happened on the border with Bolivia.

The opening of the Tambo Quemado pass in Bolivia and Chungará in Chile occurred at 12:20 p.m. local time (4:20 p.m. GMT), the Foreign Ministry said, adding that «a total of 750 transport units» on the Bolivian side were waiting their turn to continue their trip.

The congestion in the traffic of the trucks that must transport the Bolivian merchandise to the Chilean ports has been coming for several weeks, mainly due to the delay in the covid-19 tests for Bolivian drivers and cargo personnel.

Faced with this problem, a commission chaired by Blanco went to Tambo Quemado last week to bring food and provide medical attention to drivers who were blocked at more than 4,600 meters of altitude and where there are no basic services or lodging.

That commission met with some Chilean officials to agree on some measures such as an expansion of care on the Chilean side and the advancement of customs procedures on the Bolivian side.

However, some Bolivian heavy transport leaders consulted by Efe pointed out that despite these commitments the situation has not improved and that around 2,500 drivers are affected at that and other border crossings to Chile.

Bolivia proposed the development of a common biosafety protocol and the medical support of Bolivian personnel for taking tests, as well as the replacement of a new Border Committee between the two countries to deal with these issues.

The Bolivian Government has invoked the solution to these difficulties based on the right of «free transit» conferred by the 1904 Treaty, which set the definitive limits between the two countries after the so-called Pacific War.

(c) EFE Agency