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Where Is the Coronavirus in Latin America?

Coronavirus in Latin America

A worker produces hand sanitizer in Brazil. (AP)

March 27, 2020

The coronavirus landed in Latin America on February 26, bringing with it health and economic risks. See what countries so far have confirmed cases and how governments are responding.

What's the answer to the question in the title? Everywhere.

The coronavirus landed in Latin America on February 26, when Brazil confirmed a case in São Paulo. Since then, governments across the region have taken an array of actions to protect their citizens and contain COVID-19’s spread.

Aside from the health risks, there will be an economic impact as well. On March 2, the OECD decreased global GDP growth expectations for the year by half a point to 2.4 percent. Prior to the epidemic, the IMF predicted 1.6 percent GDP growth for the region for 2020. In a perfect storm for economies, dropping oil prices have resulted in plunging Latin American markets and currencies.



Below, AS/COA Online takes a look at measures taken and economic impact felt in Latin America.

In other parts of the Americas, as of March 24, cases had been confirmed in Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Canada, Curacao, Dominica, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, St. George's, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Virgin Islands, and the United States.

Argentina Dominican Republic Panama
Bolivia Ecuador Paraguay
Brazil El Salvador Peru
Chile Guatemala Puerto Rico
Colombia Honduras Uruguay
Costa Rica Mexico Venezuela
Cuba Nicaragua  

 

This article was originally published on March 5 and has been updated with new information.

 

 

Argentina

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Government response

  • On March 26, the government announced the total closing of borders—including ports, airports, and land borders—until March 31. The measure includes Argentine citizens and residents who are abroad. 
  • On March 19, the government announced obligatory quarantine from March 20 through March 31. During this time, all Argentines must stay in their homes and may only leave when necessary for necessities such as going to stores or pharmacies, or to buy gas.  The president said that authorities would patrol the streets to make sure citizens comply.
  • President of the Chamber of Deputies Sergio Massa announced on March 19 that he will meet every 15 days with members of the opposition to jointly analyze government responses in face of the pandemic.
  • On March 18, President Alberto Fernández promised to build eight emergency hospitals to combat the virus. After a meeting with cabinet ministers on March 17, the government announced more measures, such as extending leaves of absence for workers above 65 years of age, flexibilizing remote work, and fiscal measures such as minimizing individual and corporate taxes. The Commerce Ministry will tighten price controls and supply, and the Central Bank will loosen monetary policy.
  • On March 15, Fernández announced the suspension of public and private school classes from preschool through high school, and the closing of borders until March 31. The president also asked citizens to stay home as much as possible. On March 17, Fernández also widened permissions for public workers to work remotely, and emphasized that this measure should be taken up by the private sector as well.
  • On March 12, Fernández announced new measures via a “Necessity and Urgency Decree” including canceling all incoming flights from China, Europe, Iran, Japan, South Korea, and the United States for 30 days. On March 11, Fernández had announced that all travelers from China, Japan, Iran, South Korea, the United States, and the entire European continent must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Economic impact and measures

Bolivia

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Government response

  • On March 25, Interim President Jeanine Añez announced she was extending the full border closure to April 15.
  • On March 21, the interim government declared a national quarantine to start March 22 and end April 4. Markets will be open during this period until midday and one person per family will be allowed to leave home and make purchases. Factories, banks, and centers for production of basic goods will continue to operate normally. Cuts to internet service are prohibited.
  • Also on March 21, the country’s electoral tribunal declared that the special election for president, slated for May 3, would be postponed. No new date was set.
  • In the afternoon of March 17, Añez announced that she was closing all of Bolivia’s land borders except to returning citizens and residents and suspending international flights, effective March 19. Domestically, the government mandated that the work day be reduced to five hours, that markets close at 3 p.m., and that public transport stop at 4 p.m. each day. These measures will be in effect through at least March 31.
  • On March 15, Añez announced that, effective March 16, most social activities would be banned, including in bars, event spaces, movie theaters, and gyms. She reduced the limit of people at public gatherings to 100. She also announced that, as of March 18, no visitors from Europe or Iran would be allowed into the country, and that Bolivian nationals returning from those places would need to submit themselves to World Health Organization (WHO) isolation protocols. 
  • On March 12, Bolivia’s education minister announced the suspension of all classes through March 31.
  • Añez declared a national state of emergency on March 11.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 17, the Bolivian Senate passed a bill that would allow for a “financial pause” on all payments for loans under roughly $10,000, flexibilization for loans over $10,000, and a restructuring once the health crisis is over. On March 18, Añez also announced that utility services can’t be suspended, some corporate taxes will be deferred, and families will receive a $75 credit in April for each public-school student in the home.

Brazil

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Government response

  • President Jair Bolsonaro said on March 27 that mayors and governors will need to offer severance pay to workers affected by business closings. On the same day, governors of three states reopened nonessential businesses. On March 26, the government launched an anti-social distancing campaign to encourage the reopening of businesses, kick-started by Bolsonaro’s oldest son, Rio de Janeiro Senator Flávio Bolsonaro. But a study at São Paulo University showed that social distancing in the state is slowing the spread.
  • Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies started working remotely on March 25. Chamber President Rodrigo Maia said the body’s first remote vote this week will be on a constitutional amendment to open up additional funds to combat COVID-19.
  • Quarantine became a point of contention on March 25 after Bolsonaro’s controversial press conference the previous night in which he criticized the media for creating “hysteria” and said regional governments were implementing “scorched earth” quarantine policies. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said lifting restrictions would burden the healthcare system but social restriction will suffocate the economy. But Vice President Hamilton Mourão defends quarantine. Maia says the government “cannot stop taking care of people because they are losing money in the stock market.” Senate President Davi Alcolumbre, who tested positive for the virus, criticized the president’s remarks, saying, “The country needs serious, responsible, and committed leadership.” A March 20 Datafolha poll showed that approval of Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic stood at just 35 percent.
  • On March 24, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta announced the government would start to roll out a plan that will distribute 2.3 million testing kits to states across Brazil. The Ministry also plans to import over 1 million rapid tests from the United States in April. A separate office within the ministry said it has produced 30,000 kits so far with the goal of reaching 50,000 by month’s end.
  • On March 21, the governor of the state of São Paolo announced a 15-day quarantine to run from March 24 to April 7, during which time only essential services will remain operational. On the same day, the state of Rio de Janeiro closed all beaches, bars and restaurants for 15 days. The largest number of cases are in these two states.
  • On March 20, the Brazilian Senate passed a so-called state of calamity measure, where additional federal funds can be used to combat the pandemic and a newly formed commission of deputies and senators will meet every two months with the economy minister to monitor the situation.
  • On March 19, the government restricted entry to foreigners at all land borders—excluding permanent residents, diplomats, or international organization officials—for 15 days. The transportation of goods will not be restricted. On the same day, the government prohibited, for 30 days, entry via air by foreigners from the European Union, as well as Australia, China, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
  • On March 12, the Health Ministry opened 5,000 vacancies for doctors to fight coronavirus through the Mais Medicos program and announced the creation of 2,000 new ICU beds. The National Agency of Supplemental Health also approved the inclusion of the COVID-19 test as an obligatory procedure in health insurance plans for suspected carriers.
  • The Ministry recommends that people with symptoms or who have been in contact with confirmed cases quarantine themselves for 14 days.
  • Bolsonaro tested negative for coronavirus on March 13.  Twenty-four people tested positive among those who joined a delegation to Florida where Bolsonaro met with U.S. President Donald Trump during the weekend of March 7. Reports indicate Bolsonaro will likely be retested. On March 17, Bolsonaro tweeted that his second test also was negative.
  • The state of São Paulo and cities such as Brasília, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro have taken measures like canceling events with more than 500 people, holding sports events without audiences, and closing public schools.

Economic impact and measures

  • The federal government announced on March 27 it will pay two monthly salaries for workers employed by small- and medium-sized businesses. Companies need to have annual earnings between $70,500 and $1.9 million to receive the funds. Salaries paid will not exceed minimum wage.
  • On March 26, the Chamber of Deputies, which began working remotely on March 25, approved a $117 monthly transfer to people waiting for social security payments, such as the elderly, the informally employed, and the disabled. The measure was set for three months and has a Senate vote scheduled for March 30.
  • The Central Bank announced its revised growth projections on March 26 to 0 percent in 2020 from a previous 2.2 percent.
  • On March 26, the Health Ministry estimated the pandemic would cost the healthcare system roughly $82 billion, but on March 26 corrected this number to just under $2 billion, and the government is asking the World Bank for a $100 billion loan.
  • On March 25, 26 governors signed a letter to the Federal Government asking for a universal basic income for the most economically vulnerable. They also asked for a 12-month suspension of state debt to major financial institutions, both domestic and international.
  • On the same day, the Health Ministry announced the freeing up of roughly $119 million to be distributed to states. These funds come in addition to the previous $79.2 million distributed earlier in March. 
  • On March 24, Bolsonaro and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping spoke on the phone and discussed expanding trade and bilateral coordination during the pandemic.
  • On March 22, the government announced provisional labor measures that, among other things, would have allowed companies to suspend pay for workers for four months. However, on March 23, Bolsonaro walked back on the decree after backlash.
  • Economy Minister Paulo Guedes announced a stimulus measure on March 16, with a package of over $29 billion to accelerate social assistance payments, defer corporate taxes, and ease workers’ access to severance funds. On March 11, Brazil's federal government agreed to dedicate at least $1 billion of a budget bill to the Health Ministry. The Ministry determined that around $185 million will be transferred to states and municipalities to cover extended hours in public health facilities, distributed according to state population.
  • On March 20, the Brazilian Senate passed a state of calamity measure, which allows for additional federal funds to combat the pandemic and creates a bicameral commission that will meet regularly with the economy minister to monitor the situation. The measure will be in place until December 31. It could result in a deficit of over $30 billion, above the predetermined ceiling of roughly $24 billion.
  • On March 18 the government also announced measures to relieve airlines and airports, allowing them to defer some fee payments for six months.
  • China is Brazil’s top trade partner. The Brazilian stock market tumbled 7 percent on news of the first case, amounting to the biggest depreciation since May 2017. 

Chile

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Government response

  • On March 25, the government declared a seven-day quarantine, subject to renewal,  for seven heavily affected municipalities starting March 26 at 10 p.m. It will also create health checkpoints in Santiago to enforce quarantine rules.
  • On March 24, President Sebastián Piñera announced a new labor law regulating and facilitating remote work, including mandatory requirements that stipulate work vs. personal time. In addition, the government established a maximum cost of $30 for the COVID-19 test in private healthcare facilities.
  • On the same day, Undersecretary of Public Health Paula Daza announced a curfew from 2 p.m to 5 a.m. on Easter Island after confirming a first case in the territory.
  • On March 22, the government announced that it would implement a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting the same evening.
  • Political parties and the Electoral Service agreed on March 19 to postpone the constitutional referendum to October 25 amid the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
  • On March 18, Piñera declared a nationwide “state of catastrophe” as of March 19 for 90 days, following the government’s Action Plan. This includes banning gatherings in public spaces, controlling the distribution of basic necessities, establishing a quarantine and curfew, and limiting people’s movement across cities and the country, all with the help of the Armed Forces.
  • On March 16, the government said the country entered the most complex phase of risk (phase 4), and that it would be closing all borders as of March 18, allowing only Chilean citizens to reenter the country with an obligatory two-week quarantine. In addition, schools will be closed for two weeks.
  • On March 14, Chile’s government entered risk phase 3, given that it could no longer be confirmed that new cases directly involved foreign contact. As such, the country expanded the list of countries from which arriving travelers would be placed in quarantine to include China, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, and South Korea. On March 10, Chile’s government had already imposed a 14-day quarantine for travelers coming from Italy and Spain.
  • Moreover, events involving more than 500 people have been prohibited.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 23, the government announced it would delay a 2020 bond issue of up to $8.7 billion in 2020 to help finance the previously announced emergency package to protect jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.
  • The president announced an economic aid plan of $11.7 billion using a special constitutional clause to free funds without congressional approval. Piñera said the package will equal roughly 4.7 percent of annual GDP.
  • Chile’s finance minister says the economic impact of the outbreak will be limited, even though China—its top trading partner—is the destination for a third of Chilean exports. Per Reuters, Citibank economists bumped Chile to the top of a vulnerability index due to how the coronavirus can hit supply chains and commodities, as well as market volatility.

Colombia

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Government response

  • On March 20, Duque announced that, starting on the night of March 24, the country will begin a nationwide quarantine that will last through April 13. Inbound international commercial flights are suspended starting March 23 for 30 days, and Colombian citizens traveling abroad were urged to return by the evening of March 22. On March 21, the Duque appointed former Commerce Minister Luis Guillermo Plata to lead coordination of the country’s coronavirus response.
  • On March 17, Duque declared a state of emergency and announced that people 70 years old and older are obligated to stay in their homes and isolate themselves through May. As of March 17, 19 Colombian departments had declared nighttime curfews.
  • On March 16, Duque announced the closing of all of Colombia’s borders and ports as of March 17 at midnight through May 30, with only certain import shipments allowed in. The measure applies equally to citizens as well as foreigners. Within the country’s borders, Duque also mandated the closing of all bars and nightlife spaces and no social gatherings of more than 50 people.
  • On March 15, Duque announced that, as of March 16, Colombian schools will suspend in-person classes through April 20 and will transition students to online learning. He also announced that entry into the country for all foreigners and non-residents will be restricted, and that all nationals and permanent residents arriving in the country will be required to go under self-quarantine for 14 days upon return.
  • On March 13, Duque stepped up prevention measures including shutting down the border with Venezuela starting 5 a.m. on March 14. Between 20,000 and 50,000 people cross the Colombian-Venezuelan border per day, many of whom are Venezuelans seeking basic foodstuffs, supplies, and medical treatment as their country endures a prolonged economic crisis. 

Economic impact and measures

  • Duque announced a new set of economic measures on March 24 as the national quarantine went into effect, including disbursements of about $40 to 3 million low income families, the virtual deployment of about 2,500 mental health professionals, the distribution of 23 tons of food and 96 million gallons of water to vulnerable populations, and easing some conditions for student loan repayments.
  • In conjunction with the national quarantine, Duque announced a series of economic relief measures, including accelerated tax refunds, the elimination of import taxes on medical supplies and technology, reinstatement of water services, a grace period on mortgage and loan payments for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and special lines of credit for the agriculture, tourism, and aviation sectors.

Costa Rica

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Government response

  • During the evening of March 24, Costa Rican authorities began transferring some 2,600 migrants—mostly from Africa, Asia, and Haiti—from the country’s southern border with Panama to its northern border with Nicaragua, citing containment efforts. Nicaragua subsequently closed unauthorized entry points on the shared border.
  • On March 24, President Carlos Alvarado requested that WHO create a repository of information available to all member countries that includes patents of diagnostic tests and practices, medication, and vaccines. Alvarado also requested that the organization develop a procedure for the implementation of this information-sharing initiative with financial support from both the public and private sectors as well as other international organizations.
  • On March 23, Alvarado instituted four new measures to go into effect March 24: closing all beaches and religious centers across the country, instituting a nationwide car restriction that prohibits most people from driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and requiring that all foreign residents who leave the country automatically lose their immigration status
  • Alvarado declared a state of emergency on March 16, announcing that the country would close its borders to foreigners and non-residents starting just before midnight on March 18 through at least April 12. Citizens and residents of the country will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine. Travelers with layovers will be able to transit the country.
  • On March 15, Health Minister Daniel Salas announced all bars, casinos, and nightclubs will close. Regarding restaurants, he said they will be closed for 30 days in cases where they do not meet the rule of staying below the 50 percent capacity limit.
  • On March 12, the government announced it would issue preventative school closings in cases of high risk factors to start the week of March 16, that public spaces should operate at 50 percent capacity, and that international travel for public-sector workers has been cancelled. Large gatherings were also suspended. The Health Ministry announced that it will no longer report suspected cases in the country as of March 11, though Health Minister Daniel Salas acknowledged that the country’s number of suspected cases exceeds the testing capacity of Costa Rica’s national lab. 

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 19, Alvarado signed into law tax relief legislation that effectively places a moratorium on four types of taxes from April through June: the Value-Added Tax, profit taxes, selective consumption taxes, and tariffs on imported merchandise. 
  • Costa Rica’s national emergency commission received a $1 million aid package from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to combat the virus in the country.
  • The pandemic will have a significant impact, given the importance of tourism to Costa Rica’s economy, with 3.1 million people visiting in 2019 and 220,000 people employed in the industry. Tourism accounts for 8.2 percent of the country’s GDP.

Cuba

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Government response

  • On March 23, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced the closure of schools and universities until April 20, subject to extension. The government also suspended cross-island travel, and tourism is officially shut down indefinitely.
  • As of March 24, foreigners and Cubans living abroad may not enter the island, and Cuban residents returning must be quarantined for two weeks.  
  • Over the weekend of March 21, the Cuban government announced it would send a brigade of 52 doctors to Italy to support efforts to contain the virus there.
  • On March 16, Cuba’s Health Ministry announced it will allow the British cruise ship MS Braemar to dock, following a UK request. The ship has several confirmed infected passengers. The Cuban government will give medical attention to all those onboard and coordinate repatriation via air.
  • On March 14, the Cuban government announced that it would remain open to visitors, saying those who arrived would be welcomed.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 26, the government announced the temporary suspension of more than 16,000 work licenses for entrepreneurs, including landlords, contract workers, restaurant workers, and craftsmen.
  • The Cuban government has enlisted the country’s textile industry to fabricate cloth masks while urging the population to make washable masks at home using fabrics on hand. Officials have also heightened control and surveillance measures at points of entry. On March 9, Cuba’s Public Health Minister José Angel Portal announced that the government would allocate resources to combat the country’s shortage of medicines and medical equipment in the case that the virus begins to spread locally.

Dominican Republic

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Government response

  • On March 26, the government announced a curfew expansion from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. . The prior curfew, announced on March 20 by President Danilo Medina, decreed a nationwide curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. until April 3. 
  • On March 20, Medina decreed a nationwide curfew between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. until April 3. Medical personnel, journalists, and people with medical emergencies are exempt from the curfew. The announcement came after Medina declared a national state of emergency across the country on March 17, which went into effect on March 19. Under the state of emergency declaration, Medina announced that the country would close all of its borders for the next 15 days and called for the suspension of most commercial activities and cultural activities. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and markets will remain open.
  • As of March 16 through the end of the month, all incoming flights from Europe, China, and Iran will be suspended. Before the first case was officially confirmed, Dominican authorities on February 28 had ordered the suspension of all flights originating from Milan for the next 30 days. Health Minister Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas added that all travelers coming from Italy, regardless of their nationalities, will be subject to epidemiological testing upon arrival at Dominican airports. 

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 26 the Central Bank approved roughly $1.5 billion for banks to have available for clients, and $622.4 million in credit for export industries.
  • On March 25, Medina announced an economic package worth $591,200 to alleviate salary losses and food insecurity. The measures include a three-month moratorium on monthly minimum payments on credit cards as well as waivers of late fees. Starting on April 1 until May 31, the 811,000 families already subscribed to the country’s social welfare program Tarjeta de Solidaridad will receive a monthly payment ranging from $27 to $130 for foodstuffs and first aid products. The president added that 690,000 other families outside the social welfare program will also receive this assistance. 
  • On March 18, the country's Central Bank announced a stimulus package for homes, small businesses, and the tourism and export sectors.

Ecuador

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Government response

  • On March 16, President Lenín Moreno said the country would enter a state of exception during which there would be a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., as well as limits on the circulation of cars determined by license plate number. He also announced the suspension of transport between provinces and of domestic flights starting in the evening of March 17 for 14 days.
  • On the evening of March 15, Moreno announced a series of measures, including the suspension of citizens’ movements within the country except to buy food, medicine, and basic goods. Also banned are all non-essential commercial activities and social gatherings of more than 30 people. During the emergency, the administration is ordering that no one have their utilities cut off for lack of payment. The government is also providing increased internet and cell phone data service, as well as free coronavirus tests for anyone with symptoms.
  • Ecuador confirmed the first death from the virus on March 13. The woman who died, a 71-year-old woman who lived in Spain and traveled to Ecuador on February 14, was also the country’s first case.
  • On March 14, the vice president announced a series of strict measures: Foreigners would no longer be able to enter the country starting March 15, the prohibition of entry of Ecuadoran nationals and residents starting March 16, suspension of major events including religious ones, restrictions on activities involving more than 30 people, and land border crossings limited to six entry points.
  • Moreno declared a national health emergency on March 11, requiring that all who travel to Ecuador from countries that have confirmed cases be placed under home quarantine. On March 12, authorities announced the suspension of all classes in educational institutions starting March 13. In addition, meetings of more than 1,000 people have been prohibited, as is taking masks, soap, and hand sanitizer out of the country. The government also prohibited mass gatherings in Guayaquil and Babahoyo, the two places visited by the first confirmed carrier.

Economic impact and measures

El Salvador

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 21, in conjunction with imposing quarantine, the president announced a subsidy of roughly $300 per house for about 75 percent of Salvadoran households. He also threatened against corruption related to economic relief measures, saying 60 auditors would be reviewing disbursement and that “I will make a prisoner of anyone who touches even a cent.” In addition, he has frozen the prices of basic goods and warned against price gouging.

  • On March 18, Bukele announced a plan suspending utility, phone, and internet bills for three months to be paid back over the course of the subsequent two years. The president also froze payments on items such as mortgages, cars and motorcycles, and credit cards.

Guatemala

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 25, the Guatemalan Congress approved an emergency bill named the "Emergency Law to Protect Guatemalans from the impact of CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 pandemic" with a fund of roughly $480 million to cover elderly, health, employment, security, and economic programs during the emergency.
  • On March 9, the head of the Bank of Guatemala estimated between a 0.1 and 0.2 percent decrease in GDP for 2020 as a result of the coronavirus. On March 12, Congress approved the president’s proposed state of emergency bill with a fund of roughly $30 million for prevention and containment.
  • On March 20, the government said that it would increase its health budget to cover costs of medicine and equipment and suggested more funds could be made available depending on the impact of the pandemic in Guatemala. 

Honduras

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Government response

  • Starting on March 23, all markets across the country were ordered to close to the public. That night, President Juan Orlando Hernández launched Honduras Solidaria, a state-run program aimed at giving 800,000 families foodstuff and hygiene products every two weeks for the next 30 days.
  • On March 16, the government announced a national-level curfew starting at 10 p.m. that evening, as well as a state of exception that allows for the suspension of constitutional rights for seven days.
  • Hernández announced the closing of all borders as of 11:59 p.m. on March 15 with the exception of Honduran nationals and permanent residents. The country’s national risk management agency also announced the suspension of all commercial and work activities, any events regardless of number of people, and public transportation, and reminded people that failure to comply could result in criminal charges. That said, there are a host of exemptions, for everyone from public-sector and health service workers to drive-through restaurants.
  • On March 14, Honduras announced a two-week long national red alert that would restrict gatherings of more than 50 people and create specialized health units. On March 12, the country announced that all public and private schools would be closed for two weeks starting March 13.
  • On March 10, the government suspended deportation flights from Mexico.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 16, the government announced measures such as injecting funds into the construction sector, extending credit lines to ensure access to food, and financial support for small business owners.

Mexico

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Government response

  • Since becoming president in December of 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not traveled out of Mexico and, therefore, has not attended international summits. But on March 26, with the virus raging around the world, he joined a virtual G20 summit, during which he urged for the UN to control the sale of medicines and equipment and cautioned leaders against shutting down borders. 
  • On March 25, Undersecretary of Health—and principal spokesperson on government response—Hugo López-Gatell said the federal government would stop all non-essential operations
  • On March 24, the government declared that the country had entered phase two of the epidemic after the WHO a day earlier categorized it among countries with community transmission. The government said it will suspend all public and private gatherings of 100 people or more for the coming month, along with work activities that would require people to travel. In addition, the finance ministry will provide roughly $180 million to the defense ministry and navy for measures such as expanding hospitalization capacity, coordinating with states and municipalities, and deploying thousands of health professionals to combat the virus.
  • A March 24 Reforma poll found that 44 percent of Mexicans disapprove of López Obrador’s handling of the pandemic, compared to 37 percent who approve. Some 82 percent said he should cancel his large events and tours. He has spent weekends traveling through Mexico, sharing videos on social media in which he could be seen making physical contact with supporters. During the week of March 16, he said that restrictive containment measures put in place too early would negatively impact the country’s poor and, during a press conference, displayed religious amulets he carries for protection. On March 22, while eating in a restaurant in Oaxaca state, he encouraged people to keep taking their families out to eat.
  • On March 23, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) predicted the country will see between 500,000 and 700,000 life-threatening COVID-19 cases.
  • With March 23 marking the start of the country’s month of social distancing, on March 22 Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced the closing of theaters, cinemas, gyms, bars, and other spaces where groups larger than 50 people tend to convene until April 19. However, she said restaurants and shopping centers will remain open for now. Her steps mirror those taken by other governors in the absence of stricter federal measures; on March 20, Governor Enrique Alfaro of Jalisco announced a five-day quarantine in his state, for example.
  • On March 20, the U.S. and Mexican governments announced that they will restrict nonessential travel across their shared border starting on March 22, although commerce will continue. 
  • Also on March 20, the Health Ministry revealed a new character, Susana Distancia, to illustrate how far apart people should stay from each other. Her name is a play on words: su sana distancia, or “your healthy distance.”
  • On March 14, the Health Secretariat announced that schools will be closed from March 20 through April 20. López-Gatell said that, from March 23 through April 19, the country would enter a period of "safe distance" in which people should work remotely and events of 5,000 people or more should be suspended. The Health Secretariat also released a statement saying that Mexicans should avoid non-essential international travel

Economic impact and measures

Nicaragua

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Government response

  • Before authorities confirmed the country’s first case, Ortega’s administration announced that it would ban wakes and funerals for those who die of the virus. 
  • As of the time of the confirmation from Murillo, the government had not implemented quarantines, school suspensions, or travel restrictions, nor did she indicate if or that it would. A number of local businesses, including bars and restaurants, decided to close down to protect their staff and clients. 

Panama

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Government response

  • On March 25, the country's armed forces closed down all unofficial entry points across Nicaragua’s southern border with Costa Rica, reports La Prensa. The move followed a March 21 meeting between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan officials in which the two countries agreed to collaborate in sharing health information but did not commit to closing their shared border. 
  • On March 24, President Laurentino Cortizo declared a national quarantine to begin at 5:01 a.m. on March 25. Citizens will be allowed to leave their homes to buy medicine or food on a schedule according to the last digit on a citizen’s national identity card or a foreigner’s passport.
  • On March 23, the government instituted a curfew starting March 24 that will run nightly from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m, expanding a previous curfew announced on March 19 that ran from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • On March 22, the government announced a system to be put in place when/if total quarantine is mandated, restricting people to leave their homes only to buy medicine or food on a schedule according to their national identification card or passport numbers, and people will only be able to be out of the house for up to two hours.
  • On March 19, the government announced that all incoming international flights will be suspended as of March 22 for 30 days.
  • On March 17, Panama held the first virtual Cabinet Council meeting in Central America, where the president and cabinet ministers discussed the government agenda following the Health Ministry’s recommendations to avoid group gatherings.
  • As of 11:59 p.m. March 16, only nationals and foreign residents will be allowed entry, with mandatory quarantine for 14 days. In a press conference, Security Minister Juan Pino announced that public spaces such as nightclubs, bars, and casinos will close, and that all shops barring supermarkets, pharmacies and medical centers will also close. The Health Ministry also announced the suspension of non-essential surgeries and hospital visits.
  • On March 14, flights from Asia were suspended. On March 13, the country suspended events of more than 50 people and had already prohibited flights arriving from Europe. On March 12, Cortizo announced a state of emergency, and presented to the government a national decree for necessary resources to mitigate the outbreak’s effects. The government had announced further preventive measures after the country's first death, including suspending private- and public-school classes in central and northern Panama until April 7.
  • On January 29, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) instituted stronger safety measures, largely in response to a worsening health crisis in China, to primary users of the waterway. These measures include requiring ships that docked in countries with confirmed cases to report them prior to their arrival in Panama.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 25, Cortizo announced that banks are postponing mortgage and loan payments until December 31, and on March 24 he said that people who have lost their jobs will not pay utilities or face internet cuts for the next three months.
  • On March 23, Panama City’s Mayor José Luis Fábrega announced that each of the capital’s 23 community councils will get $25,000 in emergency funds.
  • Given that 6 percent of global trade passes through the Canal, financial analysts warn that Panama will feel the impact as the virus continues to affect trade.

Paraguay

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 24, President Mario Abdo Benítez announced the government will spend $800,000 to build two new hospitals, adding 200 beds to the country’s capacity.
  • On March 13, Benitez announced economic measures, such as allocating roughly $81 million for health measures and a reduction in interest rates reduced to 3.75 percent from 4 percent.
  • The government shared a number to call for people who traveled to countries where COVID-19 is present and who have symptoms. It also announced it will suspend for at least 15 days public events or large gatherings such as concerts, as well as classes in schools.
  • Paraguay’s Clinics Hospital, a research facility within the National University of Asunción located in the capital, is prepping a special block within the hospital to deal with coronavirus cases.

Peru

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Government response

  • On March 25, President Martín Vizcarra announced he was extending the state of emergency and nationwide quarantine an additional 13 days, through April 12
  • Peruvians overwhelmingly support Vizcarra’s handling of the crisis. An Ipsos poll released March 22 found that his approval rating jumped 35 points in one week to 87 percent. Some 96 percent approve of the curfew and 95 percent support the national quarantine. 
  • On March 21, Vizcarra said that some 8,000 people had been arrested for violating the curfew and restriction-of-movement measures.
  • Vizcarra said on March 19 that the government is in the process of purchasing 1.4 million coronavirus quick test kits.
  • Vizcarra announced a nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and banned all private vehicles from the roads. Both measures go into effect on March 19. Additionally, some 3 million low-income households will receive payments of about $100, meant to cover two weeks’ worth of basic goods, that people can pick up on March 19.
  • On March 15, Vizcarra declared a state of national emergency, lasting 15 days, that puts strict controls on people’s movement within the country. The decree requires all of Peru’s borders closed as of 11:59 p.m. March 16, as well as prohibiting domestic travel between Peru’s 196 provinces. Peruvians are required to stay in their homes, unless they are going to buy food or pick up medicine. Workers in several critical sectors, however, such as health, finance, communication, and supermarkets, are allowed to commute.
  • On March 11, the government ordered that travelers coming from China, France, Italy, and Spain be quarantined at home for 14 days. The administration also announced that school classes are suspended until March 30.

Economic impact and measures

Puerto Rico

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Government response

  • On March 26, Vázquez extended the curfew until April 12 and changed the daily start time to 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
  • On March 23, Vázquez ordered all travelers arriving in Puerto Rico, regardless of nationality, to undergo a 14-day quarantine. The announcement came after the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency limited all Puerto Rico-bound commercial flights to the San Juan international airport. The agency acted in response to the governor’s March 18 request to restrict flights to and the use of airports in Puerto Rico to stop tourists from going there and bringing more cases. In addition, the island’s legislature postponed the Democratic presidential primary scheduled to take place on March 29 to April 26.
  • On March 16, Puerto Rico’s government announced it will only hold online press conferences, the first to do so among U.S. territories and states.
  • In a televised address on March 15, Vázquez announced an islandwide curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., and nonessential businesses to close until March 30. Supermarkets, pharmacies, medical equipment stores, gas stations and banks are among the essential services that are to remain open.
  • In a press conference, Vázquez announced that public schools would be closed for 14 days starting March 16 and the suspension of cruises entering ports. In addition, she said that she had accepted the resignation of Puerto Rico’s health minister. The governor had already declared an island-wide state of emergency on March 12.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 23, Vázquez announced a $787 million financial package to address the economic fallout the virus would have on the island. The package, which at the time of its announcement was the largest one presented by U.S. states and territories, includes a 90-day moratorium on a payments for mortgages, cars, and personal and commercial loans. The local government will also give $1,500 to businesses with 50 employees or fewer that have had to close and don’t qualify for federal aid. More than 170,000 self-employed workers are eligible to receive up to $500. 

Uruguay

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Government response

  • On March 22, Uruguay and Brazil agreed to close their shared borders fo 30 days for all foreigners entering Brazil, and the measure is subject to extension.
  • On March 18, the government announced the closing of large commercial spaces such as shopping malls.
  • President Luis Lacalle Pou announced the border with Argentina would close as of midnight on March 17. The decision was made in unison with Argentine President Fernández.
  • Classes in all public and private schools are suspended through at least Easter, April 12.
  • The government announced on March 15 new measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including suspending incoming flights from the United States on American Airlines starting March 18, barring all flights from Europe, launching a mobile application to know where there are cases in the country and the coronavirus.uy website, and Lacalle Pou to communicate with regional counterparts to coordinate prevention measures.
  • Upon confirming the first cases, Lacalle Pou's government announced a health emergency, including the partial closing of borders, obligatory quarantine of patients coming from at-risk countries (China, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Spain), prohibition of stops for cruises, suspension of major public events, and no required attendance in public and private schools of all levels.

Economic impact and measures

  • On March 26, the government declared the creation of a Coronavirus Fund, drawn from the salaries of  public workers who make over $1,800 monthly, and Lacalle Pou along with ministers and legislators will also give 20 percent from their own salaries. The contributions will be periodic for two months, and the measure is subject to extension. 
  • On March 24, the government announced it will disburse funds to 55,000 workers over 65 years old in both the public and private sectors as a way to make sure they stay at home.
  • On March 19, the government announced the Social Development Ministry would receive $22 million to reinforce social programs, such as building refuge centers and extending salaries on the Social Uruguay Card, a government-funded resource for the most disadvantaged to access food and basic need products.
  • On March 19, the government announced it will extend tax payment deadlines to the Uruguayan internal revenue and social security agencies, and the Uruguayan Central Bank will provide credit lines to companies of around $50 million, while working with multilateral organizations to augment this sum to up to $125 million.
  • China is Uruguay’s main export market. The Southern Cone country saw exports drop 20 percent year-on-year in February 2020.

Venezuela

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

Daniela Cobos, Pía Fuentealba, Diogo Ide, Luisa Leme, Maria de Lourdes Despradel, Ragnhild Melzi, and Adán Toledo have contributed to this content.