A friend in Patagonia writes:
The mood is changing rapidly here in remote Aysen Province. Last week, tourists well heeled or hitchhiking were viewed with either ambivalence or as a welcome source of income from the the locals. Now in the space of just a few days, hours really, that has changed. Most tourists fled the region as the international flights began to be cut back and the question of getting out loomed, but some lingered on sticking to their itineraries and chasing their dreams. Now they find themselves in a uncomfortable limbo as one of the two regional airlines abruptly cancelled all flights for the next five weeks and the other runs a reduced schedule. Reports came in today from a friend that the town of Rio Tranquillo famous for its Marble Caves had cut the road coming into their town from the north by felling large trees across the Careterra Austral. All cars were being stopped by angry locals to inquire what business the outsiders had coming to their region. There were reports of rental cars heading out of the region being pelted with rocks. Tourists are now seen as potential viral vectors. The small town of Balmaceda, home to the regional airport also closed its road with felled trees to stop any non locals from coming into the province. Checkpoints are now active at the intersection of the road where Cerro Castillo and Puerto Ibañez meet with officials taking temperatures of all occupants of the cars and busses. A government agency is collecting the names of all tourists left behind to be able to monitor their whereabouts. All lodges and hotels are now closed and our village is eerily silent. A lodge owner from Holland turned away a couple from his home country who arrived at his door to seek accommodations. He was under directive to close and accept no one, and with reluctance turned them away. They said they had nowhere to go. Tonight they must be somewhere between road blocks and the airport bivouacking in their rental car.