El Salvador: Regulation law for isolation, quarantine, observation and surveillance due to COVID-19

Written by:

Michelle Suadi and Gustavo Vega


As a result of the national situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the progressive increase in confirmed cases, on May 5th, 2020, the Salvadoran Congress approved a new Act to regulate the conditions, time and form of quarantine compliance, as well as the isolation and surveillance of individuals subject to health control measures. Legislative Decree No. 639 (hereinafter the “Decree” or the “Law”) was published in the Official Gazette on May 7th, 2020.

Please find below a summary of the main measures and conditions established by the Decree, which takes into consideration the resolutions and precautionary measures that have been issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice during the pandemic, in order to comply with the fundamental rights and guarantees of the people during the COVID- 19 pandemic:




The entire national territory is declared an epidemic zone, subject to health control, for which the entire population is obliged to shelter-in-place and may only leave their homes in the cases detailed below.

The purpose of the Law is to develop the conditions, time and form of compliance with the assumptions of: 1) Isolation; 2) Quarantine; 3) Surveillance and Observation of Suspicious Cases.

The Ministry of Health with the support of other Ministries or Institutions, is designated as the entity in charge of coordination of the actions for the compliance of the dispositions. For this matter, it will have the support of the National Civil Police and the Salvadoran Army, if necessary, to guarantee compliance by the population with the measures imposed and effective sanitary control.

Additionally, laboratories, hospitals and private clinics are authorized to carry out COVID-19 tests, with the previous authorization and strict supervision from the Ministry of Health.



  • Isolation:Mechanism used at specific facilities designated by the Ministry of Health to separate suspect cases from confirmed cases of COVID-19. Mobility is restricted at the containment center for sick people to prevent transmission of the virus, confining them individually to avoid contagion to others.


  • Containment Centers: Designated facilities for the protection of individuals, for compliance with the controlled quarantine.
  • Quarantine: Mechanism to separate and restrict the mobility of people who are asymptomatic but may have been exposed to COVID-19, to monitor the possible development of the disease and prevent its spread.

Individuals subject to quarantine:

  1. Individuals that come from other countries.
  2. Individuals who breach or violate the home quarantine without justification, and after being evaluated by medical personnel, are classified as either as suspicious case or that have been exposed to a possible contagion.
  3. Individuals with an epidemiological nexus, meaning that they do not show symptoms of COVID-19 but have been in contact with, or within one meter of a confirmed or suspicious case of the virus.

Epidemiological nexus: Individual without symptoms, but with a history of physical contact or within one meter of a suspicious or confirmed COVID-19 case, within 30 days of onset of symptoms, up to 7 days after cessation of fever.




  • Controlled Quarantine: When it must be carried out in the facilities designated by the Ministry of Health, for a maximum period of 15 days, or for the period determined after being evaluated.


The following individuals will be subject to Controlled Quarantine:

  1. Individuals that come from other countries.
  2. Those considered to be epidemiological nexus.
  3. Exposed or suspicious cases.

If a case of COVID-19 is confirmed within a Containment Center, at least 6 additional days should be spent to confirm or rule out infection, and only those who have tested negative in PCR tests and clinical evaluations that give certainty of not being infected should be allowed to leave.

Once the people have left the Controlled Quarantine, they must remain in home quarantine for a period of 15 days and may leave with the exceptions established by the competent authority.


  • Home Quarantine (shelter-in-place): When it can be carried out in the respective homes of the individuals which will last 15 days.


Subject to Home Quarantine:

  1. Individuals who have completed Controlled Quarantine.

Non-compliance with Home Quarantine: In case of non-compliance with the Home Quarantine, the person will be transferred to a medical evaluation facility, where he/she will be examined and observed within a maximum of 12 hours, to confirm if he/she has been infected or exposed to the virus. Medical personnel from the Ministry of Health will determine whether the person is transferred to a Containment Center or back to Home Quarantine. Under no circumstances may people be taken to a containment center where there are positive cases of COVID-19. Assessments must be reported within a reasonable time.




  1. Individuals with justified cause to acquire food, drinks and necessities, pharmaceutical products, medical treatments, urgent care for pets, or who need to go to a care center.
  2. People who assist and care for children, the elderly, the disabled or vulnerable people with chronic diseases, who need to travel for medical care or emergency.
  3. Press and media employees.
  4. Agricultural sector and independent workers in this sector.
  5. Financial Sector.
  6. Private security services.
  7. Electricity, water, telephone, and internet services.
  8. Health activities, food, drinks and bottled water.
  9. Industrial and commercial activities considered essential by the Ministry of Health.
  10. Public employees working to fight the pandemic.
  11. Congressmen and employees of the Salvadoran Congress.
  12. Magistrates, judges and court employees.
  13. Employees of the Supreme Court of Justice.
  14. Employees of the Institute of Forensic Medicine.
  15. Employees of the Attorney General’s Office.
  16. Employees of the Solicitor General of the Republic, the Solicitor of the Defense of Human Rights and the National Council of the Judiciary.

The Ministry of Health may authorize the operation of vital activities for the population.




The Ministry of Health must comply with the International Health Regulations in any action related to the surveillance of COVID-19.

Any person who has knowledge of any suspicious or confirmed case of COVID-19 should report it to the Ministry of Health.


In addition, penalties are established for non-compliance with the provisions of the Act, in accordance with the Health Code.

This Act shall apply in a special manner to any other Act which contradicts it.

*Please note that these measures are currently in force and are subject to change at any time, if further decrees are issued by the President and the Legislative Assembly.

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