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The Coronavirus in Latin America

Coronavirus in Latin America

A worker produces hand sanitizer in Brazil. (AP)

July 08, 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.

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. The World Bank forecasted in June that the Latin American and the Caribbean as a whole will see a GDP contraction of 7.2 percent this year. Prior to the pandemic in October 2019, the multilateral predicted GDP growth of 1.8 percent growth in 2020 for the region.



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 July 8, cases had been confirmed in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Cayman Islands, Canada, Curaçao, Dominica, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Sint Eustatius and Saba, St. George's, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Marteen, St. Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, 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

  • Reopening plan: In a first move toward reopening, the government announced the beginning of a new social distancing phase on June 7 that eases quarantine restrictions for large portions of the national territory. On this date, social and economic activity restarted but following strict health guidelines, including restricting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer and maintaining two meters from each other while using facemasks in public spaces. However, on June 26, the government then took steps to retighten quarantine measures again (see mitigation measures). 
  • Mitigation measures:
    • On June 26, the president extended quarantine until July 17 nationally, including the previously announced social distancing rules for areas with low levels of contagion. President Alberto Fernández’s announcement also included a retightening of quarantine rules that were eased on June 7 in areas including the northern Chaco region and the metropolitan Buenos Aires area, the latter of which saw a 136 percent increase in confirmed cases in the last 20 days. In the metropolitan capital area, people may only leave their homes to buy food or medicine, can no longer exercise outdoors, and only essential workers may use public transport.
    • Government-financed researchers from two Buenos Aires universities along with two technology companies announced on June 13 they developed a second COVID-19 rapid test kit, approved by the national drug regulatory agency, which they say is faster and more accurate than the previous test announced nearly one month earlier. The government said that laboratories could produce 100,000 testing kits monthly. As of June 15, the ministry reported a testing rate of 530 per 100,000 inhabitants.
    • On May 1, the government announced the finalized construction of 12 emergency hospitals built in 30 days and making available 1,200 more ICU beds, exceeding Fernández’s promise on March 18 to build eight contingency centers. 
    • On legislative activity, Argentina resumed sessions on May 4 after social distancing was announced by decree on March 20, with only 46 legislators allowed in Congress at once, while all others will attend sessions virtually.
    • Fernández decreed a national health emergency on March 12, to be in effect for one year.  
  • Travel and border restrictions: A June 7 decree announcing the new social distancing phase also extended the closure of land, port, and air borders, barring entry to all foreign nationals until June 28. On April 27, the government imposed a total ban on international and domestic commercial flights until September 1. 
  • School closings and restrictions: On June 29, the government extended the closings of schools through July 17. In-person classes at all school levels were suspended on March 15.
  • Other updates:
    • On June 29, the Supreme Court lifted the judicial recess that it implemented March 16 for itself as well as national and federal courts and resumed activities remotely. First courts of appeal and criminal courts continue to be suspended until further notice.
    • When it comes to regional ties, Argentina suspended its participation in the Mercosur trade bloc on April 24 to focus on the health and economic crisis at home after partners Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay agreed to advance on new trade agreements with countries, including Canada, India, Lebanon, Singapore, and South Korea. The decision only affects new trade deals, as the country will continue to work on established negotiations such as with the European Union. Argentina said it would reevaluate its position if new agreements were paused.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP Forecasts: A monthly Central Bank poll released on June 5 projected a 9.5 percent GDP contraction in 2020—2.5 percent more than the prior forecast. On June 8, the World Bank predicted Argentina’s economy would shrink 7.3 percent this year, an even greater contraction than the 5.2 percent forecast in an April semiannual report.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy
    • On June 30, the government extended for a third time a March 19 decree that caps prices for food and health-related products through August 30.
    • On May 11, the president added over $5.6 billion to the public spending budget and granted Chief of Staff Santiago Cafiero powers to oversee the national budget through the end of 2020 without congressional oversight. Fernández also suspended Cafiero’s congressionally approved 5 percent limit within which to make budget adjustments, saying that it is “necessary to give flexibility to spending related to the health emergency due to COVID-19." The opposition criticized this measure, including former legislator Eduardo Amadeo saying, “It is definitely unconstitutional, a state of emergency cannot shut out Congress.”
    • On May 18, the government extended for another 60 days a decree, originally issued April 1, that prohibits companies from firing employees without just cause or due to downsizing. Previously, after a meeting with cabinet ministers on March 17, the government announced extending leaves of absence for workers above 65 years of age, and fiscal measures such as minimizing individual and corporate taxes.
    • On April 20, the government submitted to Congress a proposal to tax fortunes of $3 million between 2 and 3.5 percent to offset the economic crisis. In an effort to control price gouging, the government on April 9 announced cooperation with the Interior Commerce Secretariat to control and regulate municipalities’ prices of basic goods across the country, including food and medicine. On April 1, the government announced it will eliminate import taxes on critical medical supplies for the duration of the health crisis.  
  • Social programs:
    • On June 18, the government prolonged an April 30 measure extending the date of suspension for bank accounts until December 31 for holders unable to clear bounced checks or pay fees. On June 9, the government extended through December a measure that requires companies to double severance pay for private sector workers let go from their jobs without just cause, a measure that had gone into effect pre-COVID-19 in December 2019 for six months. The government also announced on June 18 a series of non-deductible monthly bonuses for medical workers of up to $590 for the months of April, May, June, July, and August available on August 1, with amounts sum variable depending on length of service and specialty.  
    • The government extended on June 5 a Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security measure that allows employers belonging to the General Confederation of Labor and the Argentine Industrial Union to furlough workers with up to 25 percent pay reduction through July 31. The decree originally went into effect on April 29.
    • On June 1, the government announced an additional payment of roughly $145 starting on June 8 to be rolled out for up to five weeks to about 9 million beneficiaries of the family emergency income payout program first announced in March to relieve vulnerable self-employed and informal workers amid the pandemic. 
    • On May 18, Fernández announced suspension of price increases for television, mobile, and internet services until August 31. The measure also includes more affordable prepaid and postpaid service plans with fixed rates until October 31. 
    • On May 5, the government expanded definitions for the Emergency Employment and Production Assistance Program, allowing companies with over 800 employees to request assistance, as well as companies who have lost 30 percent in billing. The government announced on April 19 it will pay workers of companies facing financial crisis 50 percent of their salaries, and will give zero-interest loans to self-employed workers. This was the first expansion of the Program announced on April 1, which includes postponing or reducing up to 95 percent of employer payments to the Argentine social security agency, as well as a compensatory salary for workers in companies of up to 100 employees who meet conditions such as being in obligatory quarantine or at high health risk, or whose commission-based productivity has been highly affected.
    • On April 9, the Culture Ministry set up a $460,000 development fund to help cultural institutions such as museums and theaters cover operating costs and salaries.
    • On March 29, the government announced a suspension of evictions for those who can’t pay their rent, as well as a rent freeze based on March rent rates until September 30, after which rent increases would be paid in three monthly payments without interest. Fernández also announced the freezing of mortgage loan rates until September 30.
    • On April 8, the government implemented the Provincial Financial Emergency Program, allocating roughly $1.85 billion from the National Treasury Contribution Fund and Trust Fund for Provincial Development to help provincial finances during the crisis.
  • Other updates:
    • On June 29, the national statistics agency reported a 26.4 percent fall in economic activity in the month of April—the sharpest decline since the early 1990s—as a result of quarantine restrictions. The figure compares to a 17.5 percent contraction in March. The sectors hardest hit include construction, hotels and restaurants, and manufacturing.
    • A June 4 Reuters report indicated that Central Bank reserves fell almost $1 billion in May, leaving reserves at just below $43 billion amid the pandemic, compared to nearly $80 billion in early 2019. A June 4 National Institute for Statistics and Census report revealed a 33.5 percent plummet in industrial production in April 2020 after the pandemic-related restrictions to manufacturing, compared to an 8.9 point contraction the same month the previous year. On March 25, the World Bank had announced it will lend Argentina $300 million in emergency funds, totaling $165 million in 2020 and $135 in 2021.
    • On May 19, the government put a local crude oil price of $45 per “criollo” barrel to back producers at the major Vaca Muerta shale deposit, while Brent crude prices traded at $35 after global oil prices slid in conjunction with the pandemic hit. The measure is set to last through 2020.
    • On May 5, the government announced it would receive a $4 billion loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, rolled out over four years, to mitigate economic impacts from the pandemic.

Bolivia

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

Brazil

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Government response

  • Reopening planOn July 2, the government of Brasília announced a reopening schedule for the capital under strict health guidelines, including opening commercial activities on July 7 such as beauty parlors, barber shops, and gyms, while bars and restaurants are slated to reopen on July 15. Rio de Janeiro authorities announced a gradual 6-phase reopening plan to start on June 2. Allowed in the first phase are sports facilities, outdoor exercise, aquatic activities in the ocean including surf, church gatherings, furniture stores, and automobile shops. On May 27, São Paulo state and city authorities announced a five-level plan to reopen commercial activity beginning June 1, to be revised according to contagion levels. 
  • Mitigation measures:
    • On June 27, the government announced it had signed a $127 million deal to locally produce the trial COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, developed at Oxford University and considered a top contender to get officially licensed, according to the World Health Organization. The leading public health entity Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, or Fiocruz, will produce around 30 million doses by January 2021. Previously, São Paulo state Governor João Doria announced on June 11 that the Butantan Institute, a government center for scientific study,  would partner with Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, which is in its third and final stage of testing. This comes after government health regulations agency Anvisa on June 3 approved human clinical trials to start this month for the possible vaccine. The trials will take place in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on thousands of volunteers recruited by Rede D’Or São Luiz hospitals and the Federal University of São Paulo.
    • On June 12, the Health Ministry announced it registered more than 970,000 health professionals in the Brazil Counts on Me plan to recruit medical students and health professionals to help on the pandemic frontlines, including those studying to be doctors, nurses, nursing technicians, and pharmacists. This was on the same day that Brazil confirmed the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States after counting 900 deaths in 24 hours.
    • After substantial backlash to the government’s omission of COVID-19 information on the official government website three days earlier, the Supreme Court ruled on June 8 that the government must restore the virus-related data within 48 hours, including case and death counts, as well as state-by-state breakdowns. As virus-related deaths hit new record highs daily, on June 5, the government started limiting what information it shared publicly in what some outlets dubbed a “data blackout.” The ministry's information portal showed only the new registered cases by state in the last 24 hours rather than the accumulation of confirmed cases nationally, previously shared each day. President Jair Bolsonaro said in a Facebook post that the numbers were not representing “the country’s moment.”
    • Bolsonaro and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump issued a joint statement on May 31 saying they “stand in solidarity” and will “remain in close coordination” in their responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The statement also announced that the United States would send 2 million doses of the disputed hydroxychloroquine drug to Brazil for prophylactic and therapeutic treatments and that the two countries will conduct clinical trials on the drug’s efficacy. This joint effort comes after Washington restricted travel to non-U.S. citizens from Brazil into the United states starting May 26. 
    • On May 21, at least eight states said they will not follow expanded May 20 guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, which is temporarily being headed by General Eduardo Pazuello. Those guidelines encourage the use of antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms. This came after pressure from Bolsonaro, to push the drugs became a point of contention between the president and his prior top health officials. Bolsonaro removed Luiz Henrique Mandetta on April 16 and replaced him with Nelson Teich, who in turn resigned on May 15, after both clashed with the president over the guidelines recommending hydroxychloroquine for patients with mild symptoms.
    • On April 15, the Supreme Court affirmed that states and municipalities have the autonomy to regulate social distancing measures.
    • On April 14, Infrastructure Minister Tarcísio de Freitas announced a plan to bring medical equipment from China over the next eight weeks, with help from the private sector covering transport and freight costs. On April 7, Mandetta spoke with Chinese Ambassador Yang Wanming to negotiate the shipment of 250 million units of medical equipment, including 40 million masks, as well as ventilators. The health minister also said more than 53 million personal equipment units and 135,000 testing kits have been distributed to states since the outbreak, and another 300,000 tests will be distributed. 
  • Travel and border restrictions: On June 30, the government announced it will restrict entry from foreign nationals for 30 days, exempting those with permanent residence, work authorization, people married to or parents of Brazilian nationals, or people are in transit to other countries at Brazilian airports. On June 20, the government extended the measure of closed land and air borders for foreign nationals through July 6, while commerce may continue as normal. This restriction excludes permanent residents, diplomats, or international organization officials.
  • School closings and restrictions: While some states  suspended in-person classes as early as March 12, school was suspended nationally on March 26, per Unesco’s COVID-19 impact on education tracker. The National Council of Education Secretaries published a document on June 26 issuing protocols for the eventual reopening of school. Public and private institutions in São Paulo, for example, are slated to reopen on September 8, functioning at 35 percent capacity.On June 30, the Chamber of Deputies approved a provisional measure adjusting the minimum number of days in the school year due to the pandemic. Preschools are not required to meet the 800 hours and 200 days of school per year minimum while middle and high schools must complete the 800 hours but not 200 days.
  • Other updates:
    • On June 30, the military delivered medical supplies and 13,500 chloroquine pills by helicopter to Amazonian indigenous groups at the Venezuelan border. This came after, on April 10, the government announced measures to protect over 800,000 members of indigenous communities from the virus.
    • On June 23, the Senate voted to postpone municipal elections from October 4 to November 15, with a second round on November 29. The measure now goes back to the Chamber of Deputies for a second vote. Some municipalities may still change the date of their voting according to more localized assessments of health risks, but elections may not pass December 27.
    • A DataPoder360 poll released June 11 found that Bolsonaro’s disapproval rating surpassed his approval one, 50 percent to 41 percent, respectively. In an mid-April poll, his approval was at 36 percent and disapproval at 33.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecastsOn June 25, the Central Bank cut its 2020 GDP growth projections to -6.40 percent, down from a previous 0 percent on March 26. A June IMF report projected Brazil’s GDP will contract 9.1 percent in 2020. Previously, a June 8 World Bank report projected that Brazil’s GDP will contract 8.0 percent in 2020, which is 3.0 points more than what the bank forecast in April
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy:
    •  As the economy heads into a gaping recession, the Central Bank’s rating committee, known as Copom, said on June 15 it will lower interest rates by 0.75 points on June 17 to 2.25 percent, where they will stay until the end of the year. Copom also said it plans to gradually increase the rates, with the goal of ending 2021 at 3.0 percent. On May 6 the Central Bank cut the interest rate by 75 points to what was a new low of 3 percent—the largest rate slash since October 2017.
    • On June 8, development bank BNDES suspended interest and debt payments owed by states and municipalities through 2020 due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, a measure that could save states up to $790 million. This is additional to the roughly $388 million in credit loans the bank announced it would give out to the health sector in March
    • On May 29, the Central Bank’s National Monetary Council extended a trio of measures through the end of the year: caps on banks increasing dividends, salary reductions for banks’ senior staff, and limits on financial institutions’ share buybacks. The measures were originally to be in effect through September. 
    • On May 27, Bolsonaro signed a law releasing $11.3 billion in federal aid to states and municipalities, to be distributed over four months. The law also suspends local governments’ debt payments to the federal government, as well as credit renegotiations, during the state of emergency. The president gave a line-item veto, however, to a section of the bill that proposed salary increases for government employees, ruling out pay raises until December 2021, with the exception of frontline healthcare workers
    • On May 11, the Health Ministry announced it distributed roughly $1.87 billion to help fight the pandemic, including structural improvements to health services as well as personal protection equipment, tests, and respirators.
    • On April 23, the Senate approved a $2.9 billion credit line for small businesses.
    • On April 22, the government announced the $4.7 billion “Pro-Brazil” economic plan, which will roll out in October 2020. Chief of Staff Walter Braga Netto, who’s heading the project, says the plan “is not about economic recovery, but economic and social growth.” No members of the Economy Ministry attended the announcement. On May 19, the president approved a law creating credit lines for micro and small businesses. These loans can be for up to 30 percent of the business’ 2019 profit and have a 36-month amortization period. 
  • Social programs:
    • On June 30, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes announced the government will distribute roughly $112 in monthly emergency aid checks to informal workers and the unemployed until August. Payments will be made in four installments to extend them over a longer period. The Ministry previously reported that these payments would total over $28 billion instead of the original $18.2 billion. Ministry reports show that unemployment insurance claims in the first two weeks of May rose by over 76 percent compared to the same period in 2019.
    • On May 15, Bolsonaro vetoed an April 22 Senate-approved expansion to the emergency universal basic income plan, first signed by the president on March 31, that made informal workers who are not registered in the Citizenship Ministry eligible for benefits. The expansion to include teenage mothers and single parents remains. The measure allows companies to reduce worker salaries for three months or suspend them for two months, and the government will subsidize those affected proportional to the unemployment benefits they can claim.
    • On May 7, Congress passed the constitutional amendment—previously passed by the House on April 3—creating a “war budget” to separate COVID-19 spending from the federal budget and granting the Central Bank bond-buying power to help calm financial markets. The measure is set to last until the end to the state of calamity declared on March 20, allowing for additional federal funds to combat the pandemic. When the Chamber of Deputies first passed the amendment in April, the government also freed up roughly $1.8 billion to support public health, adding about $2.7 billion more to the healthcare budget. The government, when announcing the state of calamity, said it could result in a deficit of over $30 billion, above the predetermined ceiling of roughly $24 billion.
    • On April 27, Brazil’s bank industry group Febraban said that financial institutions have postponed roughly $3.91 billion in debt payments thus far that are due in the next few months to help consumers and companies amid the pandemic. In March, the group’s top lenders said they would offer a grace period of two to six months to pay debt installments. On April 7, the federal government added $4 billion into workers’ severance fund, making possible a withdrawal of $200 per worker, available on June 15. Guedes had announced a stimulus measure on March 16 of over $29 billion to accelerate social assistance payments, defer corporate taxes, and ease severance fund access. 
  • Other updates:
    • Services activity, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of economic activity, fell 11.7 percent in April following a 6.9-point fall in March according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in the sharpest decline recorded since the start of this reporting in January 2011. A June 3 report also showed that industrial production reached record-low levels with an 18.8 percent decline in April following a 9 percent fall in March.
    • On May 22, the Economy Ministry reported that national debt will hit record levels in 2020 due to the health crisis, with gross national debt reaching 93.5 percent of GDP, and net debt at 67.6 percent of GDP. A day earlier, the Economy Ministry announced that pandemic-related measures will cost Brazil roughly $62 billion on 2020’s primary budget balance.
    • On May 8, the IBGE reported that due to the recent drop in oil prices, Brazil’s consumer price inflation fell 0.31 percent in April, the lowest in 20 years. Unemployment rose to 12.2 percent in the first quarter of 2020, affecting 12.9 million Brazilians, according to a survey released April 30 by the IBGE. In February, unemployment was at 11.6 percent. 
    • On May 5, Fitch Ratings downgraded Brazil to a negative outlook from stable, given worsening economic projections given the pandemic. 
    • On April 4, Guedes announced the advancing of 2020 holidays—with the exception of good Friday on April 10, worker’s day on May 1, and Christmas on December 25—for economic activity to recover faster once quarantine is lifted.
    • The Health Ministry estimated the pandemic would cost the healthcare system just under $2 billion, and the government is asking the World Bank for a $100 billion loan
    • On April 3, the Brazilian real devalued 1.15 percent, reaching a record low of R$5.32 per U.S. dollar. 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

  • Reopening plan: Since a June spike in confirmed cases, the government announced that the Santiago region and five others, as well as three other urban areas in the country will continue to face quarantine until at least July 10
  • Mitigation measures:
  • Travel and border restrictions: The government announced it would close all borders as of March 18, allowing only Chilean citizens to reenter the country with an obligatory two-week quarantine. 
  • School closings and restrictions: The Education Ministry announced on June 12 that schools will remain closed until further notice, and they are working with the Health Ministry to assess when schools can safely reopen. The government first suspended in-person classes in schools on March 15.
  • Other updates:
    • A June 15 Cadem poll showed Piñera’s approval ratings fall to 24 percent from 27 points one week earlier. His support for handling the pandemic also fell from the previous week’s poll from 37 to 28 percent. On June 13, Piñera named Dr. Enrique Paris the new health minister, after Mañalich resigned amid rising pressures to revise the methodology of COVID-19 cases. Mañalich acknowledged the country “requires new leadership” in the next phase of its pandemic response. 
    • In a May 17 televised address, Piñera announced new measures, including: distributing 2.5 million food baskets to low-income families, establishing two new funding institutions to make loans more readily available for small business, implementing a mental health plan, increasing the number of shelters for patients who may not have appropriate conditions for isolation at home to complete quarantine if known to have the virus, and committing to a better system of releasing more localized epidemiological information. In addition, political parties and the Electoral Service on March 19 agreed to postpone the constitutional referendum to October 25.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: A June 8 World Bank report projected Chile’s GDP will contract 4.3 percent in 2020. In April, the IMF forecast a contraction of 4.5 percent in 2020, down from forecasts in January of 0.9 percent growth and further still from 3.0 percent growth in October. The IMF’s numbers are below the Central Bank’s projections of a 1.5–2.5 percent contraction in 2020.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy:
    • Piñera announced on July 5 a new $1.5 billion stimulus package aiming to help 1 million middle class families, including zero-interest loans, subsidized rents, and mortgage deferments for up to six months. On June 14, the president detailed a $12 billion emergency plan after the bill passed Congress that morning in a bipartisan agreement. The plan includes funds for the Emergency Family Income Project, local governments, civil society organizations, increased unemployment protections, and health services. Before that, on May 20, Piñera announced the disbursement of nearly $100 million to municipalities, adding to a May 7 distribution of $196 billion to support local governments in fighting the virus. The government announced new measures for economic relief on May 18 to small- and medium-sized businesses, aiming to give $150 million to 180,000 businesses nationwide. On April 28, Piñera announced a law freeing up to $24 billion for companies to access loans to benefit nearly 100 percent of Chile’s businesses, who provide 84 percent of employment. The credit line offers a period of 48 months for repayment at 0 percent real interest rates. Previously on April 8, the government announced the second phase of the economic emergency plan with new measures aiding 2.6 million informal workers to be be rolled out in three ways: a $3 billion guarantee fund for small companies from BancoEstado, a fund of up to $2 billion for workers to access emergency jobs and benefits, and the implementation of entities to regulate the Central Bank’s liquidity facilities. Briones said the measure will put Chile’s fiscal deficit at 8 percent of GDP. The first phase of the plan was announced on March 19, using a special constitutional clause to free up nearly $11.7 billion without congressional approval, a measure equaling roughly 4.7 percent of annual GDP.
    • On May 12, the Central Bank requested a flexible two-year IMF credit line of $23.8 billion. Finance Minister Ignacio Briones said the loan is to bolster the Central Bank’s “solid position” and would allow the financial institution to complement its international reserves.
    •  On March 27, the government announced financial help to small companies by suspending stamp taxes—imposed on documents that show money lending operations—for six months and extending a credit line to public bank BancoEstado worth $500 million for emergency loans.
    • The government announced on March 23 it would delay a 2020 bond issue of up to $8.7 billion to help finance the previously announced emergency package to protect jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.  
  • Social programs:
  • Other updates:
    • On May 7, the Central Bank announced that economic activity dropped 3.5 percent in March 2020 in comparison to the same month in 2019.
    • On March 24, Piñera announced a new labor law regulating and facilitating remote work, including mandatory requirements that stipulate work vs. personal time. 
    • Also March 24, the government established a maximum cost of $30 for the COVID-19 test in private healthcare facilities.  

Colombia

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: On June 8, the World Bank released updated projections that indicated the Colombian economy will contract by 4.9 percent in 2020, down from a –2.0 percent projection in April and further still from 3.6 percent growth projection in October 2019. On March 27, S&P downgraded Colombia’s credit rating from stable to negative, warning that the country could lose its investment grade status in the next 12 to 18 months. Still, Colombia is in a position to lead regional recovery, said the IMF’s Alejandro Werner in an interview on April 16, due to its resilience and strong internal demand.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: Duque announced a series of economic relief measures on March 18, including accelerated tax refunds, 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.
  • Social programs:
    • Colombia’s lower house approved a “clean slate” law on May 27 that would give debtors a yearlong grace period to catch up on their payments, and those who do would have any negative credit reports erased at the end of the 12 months. The bill, which also includes protections for victims of identity theft, will go to a conference committee first before it heads to Duque’s desk for signing.
    • Duque announced a set of economic measures on March 24, including disbursements of about $40 to 3 million low-income families, easing some conditions for student loan repayments.
  • Other updates:
    • Brent oil prices, the benchmark for Colombian oil exports, rose above $36 on May 26, after dropping below $20 per barrel on April 21. In order to maintain exploration and production levels, Colombia needs a barrel price of between $40 and $45. Oil export revenues represent 2.7 percent of Colombian GDP, compared to 11.3 percent in Venezuela.
    • On May 1, the IMF approved a renewal for a two-year flexible credit line for Colombia totaling $10.8 billion. Additionally, the Colombian government asked for a total of $3 billion from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF – Development Bank of Latin America. Local economists estimate that one month of national quarantine costs between $15 and $20 billion, or about 4.5 to 6.1 percent of GDP.
    • Manufacturing production in April fell almost 36 percent year-on-year, Colombia’s national statistical agency, known as DANE, reported on June 12, the biggest single-month decline since 1991. Auto parts, transportation, and footwear manufacturing took the biggest hits of the 39 sectors evaluated. Foods, grains, and baked goods, meanwhile, were among the half dozen sectors that grew. Commercial activity overall was down 43 percent.
    • Unemployment in Colombia rose to 21.4 percent in May, up 1.6 points from the month prior, according to figures released June 30 by DANE. Of the unemployed, some 43.5 percent said they’d lost their job due to the pandemic. In the country’s 13 largest urban areas, unemployment is up to 24.5 percent, compared to 11.2 percent in the same month a year earlier; a third of unemployed urban residents say they’re no longer able to keep up with bills and payments.

Costa Rica

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: Starting June 27, the country’s third phase of reopening went into effect. Beaches may open from 5:00 to 9:30 a.m. while hotels and restaurants may operate at 50 percent capacity. Commercial spaces and museums may open with capacity restrictions while bars must remain closed. Although places of worship may reopen with capacity restrictions, mass gatherings at event halls above 30 people remain banned. The government modified the country’s vehicle restrictions starting July 3 through July 13 with a national curfew in place between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. (see mitigation measures). After announcing a halt in the reopening process on June 19, the Health Ministry announced June 26 that the country’s third reopening phase would begin June 27, excluding the areas under an orange alert. Below is a list of the previous reopening phases:
    • During the weekend of June 20, a number of restrictions went into effect as mandated by the Ministry: most commercial businesses, beaches, and churches had to close down. Prior to that, on June 1, the country’s second phase of reopening went into effect, following an announcement by the Ministry on May 29. In the second stage, all restaurants, hotels, event halls with up to 30 people, and museums could open at 50 percent capacity.
    • The first phase also included partial reopening beaches and national parks, shuttered since mid-March. Alvarado announced on April 27 that the country would begin to ease some restrictions starting May 1 and that the reopening phases would begin May 16. The initial lifting of restrictions included movie theaters and sports facilities during the week, and beauty salons, barber shops, and auto repair shops on the weekends. Mass gatherings remain prohibited.
    • On May 11, the Health Ministry published a tentative timeline for comprehensive reopening under which the government reevaluates measures every two weeks based on the epidemiological curve in the country. 
  • Mitigation measures: Costa Rica has been credited as being successful in its efforts to slow contagion, but a spike in cases in June pushed officials to reconsider their opening strategy. Below is a timeline of some of those mitigation efforts:
    • Starting July 3 through at least July 13, a new nighttime vehicle restriction will be enforced across the country between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., the government announced on July 2. During hours outside the curfew, traffic will be limited based on license plate number. Some border regions will have a stricter curfew between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.
    • As of July 8, most of Costa Rica’s Greater Metropolitan Area including the capital were under an orange alert due to rising cases while the rest of the country remained under a yellow alert. Costa Rica’s color-coded alert system ranges from green to red, with yellow and orange alerts falling in the middle of the spectrum. Yellow signifies preparation for response while orange means mobilization. The areas currently under the orange alert, which are mostly concentrated in the northern region, will undergo two weeks of stricter health measures, including the national nighttime vehicle restriction mentioned above and the closing of most businesses during weekends.
    • Starting June 27, the use of face masks will be mandatory in most public spaces.
    • On May 18, Costa Rica began to restrict foreign cargo transit into the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus within its borders––leaving hundreds of truckers stranded (see Panama section) and causing other countries in the region to retaliate (see Nicaragua section). When it comes to cargo meant for Costa Rica, truckers must leave the merchandise at the country’s border so that local carriers can complete its delivery. Costa Rica conducts approximately $3.4 billion in trade annually with its Central American neighbors, or about $10 million a day. 
    • Alvarado declared a national state of emergency on March 16 that went into effect on March 18. Before that, on March 12, the government had already ordered public spaces to operate at 50 percent capacity and canceled international travel for public-sector workers. Large gatherings were also suspended.  
  • Travel and border restrictions: Costa Rica’s borders will remain closed to tourists and non-citizen residents through August 1 as opposed to the end of June, per a decree published in the official gazette on June 30. The decree also outlined that international tourism is scheduled to resume starting August 2, but the Health Ministry has floated the idea that tourism will be limited to certain countries that have yet to be announced. Citizens and residents of the country may leave but will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon return. Costa Rica’s immigration agency announced on April 18 that it will not penalize individuals who overstay their visas, given travel restrictions currently in place globally. Alvarado first announced the closure of all land, air, and sea entry points on March 16, a decision that will impact the country’s economy given the importance of tourism to Costa Rica, where it accounts for 8.2 percent of the country’s GDP.
  • School closings and restrictions: According to the country’s reopening plan, school reopenings are tentatively scheduled to take place during the fifth phase, though specifics have not yet been worked out. Costa Rica ordered universities to close and suspended public and private schools starting March 16 through April 4, when the Education Ministry announced the indefinite suspension of in-person learning. Starting April 13, classes began to transition online
  • Other updates:
    • On April 11, Costa Rican authorities opened an air base at the country’s border with Nicaragua to reinforce border closure policies along the normally high-traffic shared border. The base came with heightened military personnel and surveillance to prevent people crossing south, according to Vice President Epsy Campbell, in light of the fact that the Nicaraguan government has instituted minimal measures to slow contagion within its borders. A May 14 letter signed by 52 out of the 57 members of Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly urged the director of the Pan American Health Organization to take “forceful and urgent” actions regarding Nicaragua, stating that the Ortega administration’s response to the pandemic was a danger to its neighbors.
    • The WHO, along with Alvarado, launched on May 29 the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, an initiative that aims to make vaccines, tests, treatments and other health technologies to respond to COVID-19 widely accessible. The initiative was Alvarado’s idea; on March 24 he requested that the WHO create a repository of information available to all member countries.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: Both April and June projections by the World Bank show that Costa Rica’s economy will contract by 3.3 percent in 2020.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: On May 8, the government announced a $1.5 billion economic package including loans; assistance for micro-, small-, and medium businesses; and a plan to attract private investment. The loans are available to all productive sectors and may be used as seed capital assistance or for business-reopening costs. Costa Rica’s Central Bank announced on April 29 that the IMF had granted Costa Rica an emergency loan worth $508 million to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. A month earlier, Costa Rica’s national emergency commission received a $1 million aid package from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.
  • Social programs: The government launched an online financial support platform on April 9 called Plan Proteger through which Costa Ricans who have lost their jobs or are suffering income insecurity may request a monthly bonus of up to $220 for three months. On March 19, Alvarado signed into law tax relief legislation that placed 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.
  • Other updates:
    • The country’s National Institute of Statistics and Census reported on June 18 that unemployment in Costa Rica reached 15.7 percent from February to April, the highest rate in its history.
    • S&P Global Ratings downgraded its rating for Costa Rica from B+ to B on June 9 citing the effect of the pandemic on the country’s economy, following a similar downgrade from Moody’s on June 2.  

Cuba

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Government response

  • Reopening planAs of July 8, 14 out of the island’s 15 provinces moved into the second reopening phase after the government began lifting restrictions on June 18, according to Díaz-Canel. The Havana province remains in phase one. The government unveiled its three-stage reopening plan on June 11, and though officials did not specify dates for each phase, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero indicated that each province will have its own reopening calendar adhering to health protocols and indicators.
  • Mitigation measuresAs of July 1, every province in Cuba had moved past the “limited local transmission” phase initially decreed for the entire country on April 7. The Havana province and capital was the last region to transition to reopening. Under the transmission phase, the Defense Councils across the country set up quarantines in neighborhoods or municipalities with suspected or confirmed local transmission. On May 12, the Health Ministry published in the government’s official gazette the sanitary and health protocols to follow during the pandemic, though these measures had largely been in place since early April. The text includes that those who experience symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 or have had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus must report to the nearest health facility for further guidance. When asked by a health official, Cubans must also provide any personal information deemed necessary for the “effective prevention of the transmission of COVID-19.” 
  • Travel and border restrictionsStarting July 1, select areas in the northern region of the island began welcoming international tourists for all-inclusive vacations, allowing the government to isolate tourists from the general population. Tourists will be tested upon arrival, and those who come back positive will be isolated for 14 days. International commercial flights were suspended April 2 after the country initially announced that it would remain open to tourism in mid-March. As of March 24, Cuban nationals and foreign permanent residents who return from abroad to the island must be quarantined for two weeks
  • School closings and restrictions: Universities are scheduled to remain closed until the third reopening phase, though schools are scheduled to reopen in September after being closed since late March
  • Other updates:
    • Cuba has deployed medical brigades to over 20 countries to support local efforts.On March 16, Cuba’s Health Ministry allowed the British cruise ship MS Braemar to dock, following a UK request. The ship had several confirmed infected passengers. The Cuban government gave medical attention to all those onboard and coordinated repatriation via air. 

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: Cuba’s Minister of Economy and Planning estimated in January that the country’s economy will grow by 1 percent this year, while other experts project a contraction of up to 10 percent.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: Per a May 4 Granma report, Cuba’s Council of Ministers approved a series of adjustments to the island’s fiscal plan for 2020 due the pandemic, including the prioritization of allocating funds to boost the agricultural and food production sectors. 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.
  • Social programs: Between April 1 and April 7, Cuba’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security announced a series of measures aimed at protecting workers, including that workers who must undergo a 14-day isolation period will receive 100 percent of their basic salary for the time period. Older and at-risk workers were instructed to stay home and will receive 100 percent of their basic salary for the first month and 60 percent thereafter.
  • Other updates:
    • On April 1, the government announced that prices for cell phone data and voice usage would be lower in the mornings. Rates for national long distance calls were also reduced by 25 percent between 6 a.m. and 5:59 p.m. and by 50 percent between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. The government also added 10 hours to the at-home internet service Nauta Hogar for the month of April. On April 22, these measures were extended until May 30. Then, on May 30, these measures were extended in part until June 30.

Dominican Republic

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: Although phase three of the country’s reopening was tentatively scheduled to go into effect June 17, the government decided on June 16 to postpone that move after cases peaked during the initial two phases. Before that, the country began phase two of its four-phase reopening plan on June 3. Under the second phase, public buses began running at 60 percent capacity, some commercial retailers were authorized to reopen, and churches were given the green light to resume their Sunday services with reduced attendees. Businesses that had not yet cleared to reopen may resume operations based on their size and number of staff. President Danilo Medina announced on May 17 the government’s plan to partially reopen the Dominican economy. The plan went into effect May 20 when micro- and small-sized businesses were able to reopen with up to 50 percent of personnel, and medium to large businesses with up to 25 percent. The public sector reopened at 50 percent, and state public transportation began to run at 30 percent capacity. 
  • Mitigation measures: Starting June 30, the government declared the entire national territory as being under an epidemic, which grants the government the power to institute new measures to mitigate and control the spread of the coronavirus. Under the decree, all economic, social, and recreational activities are suspended between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., though all entertainment and recreational establishments must remain closed at all times with most mass gatherings banned.
    • Prior to the June 30 decree, both the national nighttime curfew and nationwide state of emergency came to an end on June 27 and 30 respectively. Medina had extended the two measures five times after both of them went into effect between March 19 and 20. 
    • The Health Ministry announced on May 5 that authorities would begin to intervene in the most affected provinces with the help of the country’s Armed Forces, the National Health Service, the Center for Emergency Operations, and other official entities. The interventions, which began on May 14, include measures such as setting up rapid testing centers, limiting movement within designated zones, and decontaminating hospitals and other medical facilities, supermarkets, and malls. The Ministry designated a total of seven areas––each made up of a handful of municipalities with the most confirmed cases––to be inspected. 
    • On April 22, Medina inaugurated the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Cybersecurity Center (C5i), a new agency housed within the Ministry of Defense that works in conjunction with the country’s Armed Forces to monitor and enforce measures, including enforcing at-home quarantines and moving patients to medical facilities. 
    • Wearing face masks in public became mandatory on April 16. 
  • Travel and border restrictions: The country reopened its borders for international tourism starting July 1, with larger hotels also opening their doors to receive tourists at 30 percent capacity during the month of July. Upon arrival, tourists will have their temperatures taken, which will then lead officials to determine whether the passenger has to have a rapid test done at the airport. Those who test positive will be isolated. Medina initially ordered the country’s borders to close starting March 19. Dominicans arriving on the island are required to undergo two weeks of quarantine. Beginning on March 16 through the end of the month, the government had suspended all incoming flights from Europe, China, and Iran after suspending all flights from Milan on February 28.
  •  School closings and restrictions: Though schools were scheduled to open August 24,  the government announced June 30 that in-person learning will remain suspended for the foreseeable future. Medina ordered public schools and universities to close and suspended in-person classes on March 17. 
  • Other updates:
    • Despite a spike in cases the day before, the Dominican Republic held general elections on July 5 and elected opposition candidate Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) for president. Abinader had just a month prior announced that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19. Turnout hovered around 50 percent, and a series of safety protocols were in place during election day, though the Organization of American States reported lapses in physical distancing throughout the day. The executive director of the presidential committee tasked with managing the COVID-19 pandemic warned that he anticipates cases will surge in the weeks after the election. The vote was originally scheduled for May 17, but the country's Electoral Board pushed them back in mid-April to July 5. This is the second election held in the Dominican Republic during the pandemic, and the first general election in Latin America during the crisis. In fact, Medina acknowledged on April 22 that the government did not move to combat the spread of the coronavirus in early March when the first case was confirmed due to municipal elections scheduled for March 15.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: Projections by the World Bank published in June forecast that the Dominican economy will contract by 0.8 percent this year, a decrease from the April forecast in which the Bank estimated that the economy would neither grow nor contract this year.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: Between April 21 and April 28, the Dominican government, through its special agricultural fund (FEDA), approved $1.8 million in aid for the agrarian sector to boost production and cultivation. On April 23, the country’s Central Bank approved a series of monetary measures, including lowering three types of interest rates and instituting liquidity measures for the national currency. Prior to that, 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 April 29, the IMF approved $650 million in emergency assistance for the Dominican Republic.
  • Social programs: On March 25, Medina announced an economic package worth over $591 million 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 would also receive this assistance. An additional 70,000 homes were added to the program on April 23.
  • Other updates:

Ecuador

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: The country began to loosen some restrictions and shift from social isolation to social distancing on May 4 via a three-color system based on the contagion levels in a given municipality. Red zones maintain a total shutdown, while in yellow zones, the public and private sectors can reopen with 50 percent of personnel. In green zones, up to 70 percent of workers can return to work. President Lenin Moreno said local mayors will make the determination on how much to open up their respective municipalities. As of June 15, 75 of the country’s 221 cantons were at the red level, 143 at yellow, and three at green.
    • Less than four weeks after reopening, Quito Mayor Jorge Yunda said the local health system is maxed out and he’s worried about rising case numbers. From March 13 to June 3, the capital registered about 47 new cases per day; from June 3 to June 26, ithat figure rose to 100 daily. After 78 days of lockdown, Quito downgraded to the medium yellow level and began to reopen on June 3 with businesses and public buses operating at 50 percent occupancy. City council members and representatives of the Quito Chamber of Commerce had petitioned Yunda in a meeting on May 12 to change the capital’s lockdown level from red to yellow, given the close to $1 billion in losses in just the first two weeks of the national shutdown.
    • Guayaquil began reopening on May 20 after it became a yellow zone based on the country’s “traffic light” reopening system. Though Ecuador’s largest city has recorded over 9,000 COVID-19-related deaths, on May 17 the city registered just 34 deaths, below its pre-pandemic average of 38 per day.
    • The Ecuadoran court system began a gradual reopening process on May 11. The courtrooms of judges who are elderly, at risk, pregnant or nursing will be first in line to be outfitted to hold virtual hearings. Legal proceedings mostly shut down March 16 when the state of emergency went into effect, though the Supreme Court did make time to hand down an eight-year prison sentence on April 7 to ex-President Rafael Correa in absentia
  • Mitigation measures: Moreno declared a national health emergency on March 11, and then announced a state of exception on March 16. During the latter, there is a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., as well as limits on the circulation of cars, and in-person classes were suspended. During the 90 days of Ecuador’s first state of exception, Moreno signed 56 executive decrees, sent three bills to Congress, and implemented a major economic relief plan. He issued a second state of exception, this one for 60 days, on June 15.
    • In an effort to perform contact tracing as the city reopens, Guayaquil began sending health monitors to 17 city zones on July 8 to screen the symptoms of 1,600 people daily.
    • On the evening of March 15, Moreno announced people’s movements within the country would be restricted except to buy food, medicine, and basic goods. Also banned are all non-essential commercial activities. 
  • Travel and border restrictions: Ecuador’s airports reopened to both domestic and international flights on June 1 at 30 percent of their usual capacity. Travelers arriving from abroad will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 serological test result taken within the 72 hours prior to boarding and, upon landing, spend five days in isolation at home or a hotel. On June 23, Ecuador and Colombia announced a plan to allow nationals stranded in each other’s countries to return home via one land border crossing. Ecuador’s borders closed to nationals and residents on March 16 and to foreigners on March 15. Venezuelans in Ecuador have until August 13 to apply for a humanitarian visa to be able to stay in the country, though migrant rights groups say the $50 application fee is too much for migrants to be able to come up with in the given time.
  • School closings and restrictions: On March 12, authorities announced the suspension of all classes in educational institutions starting March 13. Some secondary classes resumed virtually on May 4, and some university ones on July 1.

Economic impact and measures

El Salvador

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Government response

  • Reopening planEl Salvador’s management of the pandemic has been marked throughout by institutional battles that predated COVID-19’s arrival in the country, and the same is true of the reactivation plan. There’s a reason why Bukele is confident about pushing back: 80 percent of Salvadorans deem his government’s pandemic management as “very good” and another 15 percent say it’s “good,” per a June 29 CID-Gallup poll. Still, despite resistance, on June 14 Bukele’s government issued Decree 31 ending the quarantine—which began on March 14—on June 16, and mandating a five-phase reopening that will run through August 20, after which all activities will be permitted. The first phase, lasting 21 days, will see the reopening of sectors, including construction, manufacturing, medical services, and hair salons with appointments. Phase 2, starting July 7, will allow public transport and restaurants to restart. Beginning July 22, phase 3 will see the opening of shopping malls, churches, and gyms. Phase 4, starting August 6, will see the opening of cinemas, museums, and soccer stadiums. However, the future of this plan is not secure. Below are highlights of the conflict over the reopening plan:
    • On June 24, the Bukele government submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for a new 15-day state of exception to restrict certain rights as a containment measure—despite a reopening plan being put in place. Different from a state of emergency, the prior state of exception expired in April (see “Mitigation Measures” below). On June 29, Health Minister Francisco Alabí said that periods of states of exception could alternate with periods of economic reactivation. On June 30, legislators said that, rather than a state of exception, they are assessing a plan for controlled quarantines focused on areas with high rates of contagion or mortality. However, on July 4, the executive branch threatened to veto local-level states of exception, saying doing so would be unconstitutional and restrict human rights.
    • As of June 17, El Salvador’s Constitutional Court was considering at least three petitions that challenge Bukele’s Decree 31 on the grounds that it restricts constitutional rights related to freedoms of movement and transportation. Meanwhile, the president, while announcing the aforementioned decree, complained that his government had developed a prior law in accordance with an agreement made with the Constitutional Court, only to have the Court deem it unconstitutional. Both the Court and the National Assembly responded by denying having come to such agreements during meetings in recent months with Bukele. Bukele also had suggested that he had held a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Ronald Johnson about the law surrounding the quarantine. The Embassy denied having authorized any laws and said it respected El Salvador’s sovereignty. On June 8, El Salvador’s Constitutional Court declared two laws, a cabinet resolution, and 11 executive decrees unconstitutional and prohibited both the executive branch and the National Assembly from continuing to publish decrees that use the argument of preventing COVID-19 as reason for violating the Constitution. On June 20, Bukele sent a letter to the Assembly demanding it restore powers he said the Court had removed.  
    • On June 6, Bukele made good on his promise to veto a May 30 measure by the Legislative Assembly that sought to reopen business activities on June 8.
  • Mitigation measures: El Salvador began to implement containment measures before the first confirmed case. The legislature first approved both a state of emergency and a state of exception on March 14, though the state of exception, which raised concerns due to the suspension of constitutional rights, expired on April 12. For most of the period since those first steps were taken, there have been battles over extensions. Below is a on overview of milestones along the way:
    • With a state of emergency having expired at midnight on May 16, Bukele’s government declared a 30-day extension without the legislature’s approval on May 17, basing the decision on a 2005 constitutional measure allowing the president to decide in the case that the legislature cannot meet—though the Assembly was scheduled to do so. The Attorney General’s office filed a challenge with the Supreme Court, which, on May 18, declared the extension to be unconstitutional. Bukele then threatened—and then made good on the promise—to veto a congressional measure passed May 18 that extended the country’s quarantine for no more than 15 days and, among other things, required companies to set public health protocols for reopening. With that measure dead in the water, the Assembly spent the week of May 25 drafting the later-vetoed legislation but hit various obstacles, including Bukele’s resistance to transparency measures imposed by the Assembly.
    • On May 10, the presidency published a decree with seven modifications to the stricter quarantine measures Bukele announced May 5 and that began May 7. The updates sought to address concerns about unconstitutional measures in two prior decrees. The modifications included allowing health workers to use public transportation; letting police, the military, and medical workers make purchases and conduct bank transactions without showing identification; and the establishment of a call center to attend emergency calls and handle purchases of medications. The initial set of new rules, which the National Assembly paved the way for when it passed a quarantine law early in the morning of May 5, allowed Bukele to decree that Salavadorans can only leave their homes twice a week to buy food and medicine within the towns where people reside. On May 7, the presidency added on to the restrictions by prohibiting public transportation, taxis, and ubers, thereby severely limiting movement in a country where 80 percent of the population uses public buses for transport.
    • On April 29, Bukele vetoed a transitional law passed April 17 by the National Assembly that sought to fulfil an April 15 Supreme Court resolution safeguarding the rights of those who are detained for violating the national quarantine and subject to the punitive measures outlined in an April 14 executive order. Bukele’s executive order required people to allow health officials into their homes to evaluate sanitation measures, while those who violate the national quarantine are subject to 30 days of controlled quarantine. In addition, it required those driving without a justified reason to submit their vehicles for disinfection. Also on April 29, Bukele vetoed a law designed to aid health professionals by, among other things, providing them with life insurance. The Assembly had already sought once to bypass the president’s prior veto on this measure on April 23. 
    • On April 12, Bukele announced it would be obligatory for people to wear masks in the street and that people who drive vehicles who do not have the right to do so could be stripped of both their licenses and cars. The latter measure contradicted an April 8 Supreme Court ruling that annulled an earlier order by Bukele to seize vehicles. The Court also annulled Bukele’s April 6 detention measure, ordered in conjunction with his April 6 announcement that the country’s quarantine would be extended for a month and that the armed forces and police should “get harsher with people in the street” and detain them for 30 days for not following quarantine rules.
  • Travel and border restrictions: The San Salvador international airport will begin accepting commercial flights starting August 6. The airport has been closed since March 16, before which Bukele banned foreign travel into the country, except for residents and diplomats, while returning Salvadorans were required to be isolated for 30 days. On May 29, El Faro reported that it had uncovered that four deportees from the United States ended up testing positive in El Salvador. While officials in neighboring Guatemala have said a large portion of deportees are arriving infected with the coronavirus, El Salvador’s government has defended Washington and said it has not found that deportees have been infected. On April 24, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States is sending ventilators to El Salvador while acknowledging the country’s support on migration. In March, El Salvador suspended deportation flights from Mexico and the United States, but quickly lifted the ban.  
  • School closings and restrictions: Bukele ordered all schools and universities to close on March 11 for 21 days when he first placed the country under a national quarantine. Since then, schools have remained closed and classes transitioned to televised and virtual sessions on May 25 while the Education Ministry works out a plan to resume in-person learning.
  • Other updates:
    • On May 27, the president said he plans to push for a reform that would completely overhaul the country’s governmental structure. “We have the support of 97 percent of the population,” said Bukele, who had an approval rating of 92.5 percent, per a poll published May 24 by La Prensa Gráfica. The president also said “the majority of legislators are delinquents” for failing to come to an agreement about an extension of an emergency decree related to the pandemic. He made the comments after a May 27 meeting with union leaders, who put themselves at the service of the president to pressure the Assembly, potentially through protests, but also by bringing a case against both the legislature and the Supreme Court to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over the two government branches’ blocking of Bukele’s latest emergency decree. Bukele had promised on May 20 to file the suit, but the head of the IACHR responded that the Commission cannot hear a case in which one branch of government sues another.
    • Bukele said on May 26 that he is using hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug endorsed by Trump. The president, who noted the drug is no longer part of the country’s health protocols to treat the pandemic, said he is taking it as a preventative measure. 
    • Per a May 21 ElSalvador.com report, the U.S. State Department sent a memorandum to the U.S. Congress in which it determined that El Salvador has met conditions to continue receiving aid but cautioned about Bukele’s lack of transparency, attacks on the press, and efforts to weaken institutions amid the pandemic. On May 18, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador called on the three branches of El Salvador’s government to reduce confrontation. On June 15, a date that marks 157 years of bilateral relations, the U.S. ambassador announced $5 million in aid for El Salvador, with $3 million for food and $2 million for hygiene kits to help those affected by COVID-19 and Tropical Storm Amanda. This sum is on top of more than $73 million in aid since March 2020 to help mitigate the effects of both emergencies. 
    • The wear and tear on El Salvador’s institutions has not escaped international attention. On May 19, the UN secretary general urged the Bukele government to take legal routes to combat the pandemic, and to “act in a responsible manner with respect for human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.” This came after a May 16 interview with France 24, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet raised similar concerns
    • On May 11, private sector leaders and academics quit a committee charged with overseeing the spending of $2 billion in pandemic-related funds after they said Bukele’s government failed to provide necessary information for them to effectively conduct an audit. 
    • On April 29, two U.S. congressmen—Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Albio Sires (D-NJ)—wrote a letter urging Bukele not to use the pandemic as an excuse to discard constitutional and human rights in response to images of extreme measures being taken in Salvadoran prisons. El Salvador experienced a surge in violence between April 24 and April 26, with more than 50 murders taking place over the course of those three days. On April 26, Bukele said gangs were taking advantage of authorities’ focus on the pandemic and announced that police and armed forces had permission to use lethal force in cases of self-defense or defense of others. In addition, the presidency announced prisoners who are members of rival gangs would be mixed within cells and shared images of inmates packed together in human chains. Additionally, El Faro reported on April 24 that the country’s human rights body had uncovered evidence of illegal detentions and cruel treatment during the course of the country’s quarantine. 
    • In an April 21 tweet showing himself alone with a mask on and seated behind a giant desk, Bukele said rumors he had been kidnapped by extraterrestrials were unfounded. 
    • Bukele thanked Alibaba founder Jack Ma via Twitter on April 5 for a donation of 100,000 masks, more than 10,000 test kits, and five ventilators.  

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: In June, the World Bank forecast that El Salvador would see a GDP contraction of 5.4 percent, meaning a worsening outlook from the Bank’s April forecast of a 4.3 percent contraction.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: On May 5, the National Assembly approved a $1 billion plan to stimulate economic recovery that included measures such as loans for small enterprises and financing for business owners in the informal sector. On April 14, the IMF gave El Salvador a $389 emergency assistance loan—the first from the agency to the country in over 30 years, reports Latin Finance
  • Social programs:
    • The government and the private sector came to a $1 billion agreement on April 23 to provide basic foodstuffs to 1.7 million families; $600 million in low-interest loans to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises; $90 million in credits to the informal sector; and delays on corporate tax payments and income taxes.
    • 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.
  • Other updates:

Guatemala

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: While visiting an airport in the Petén region on July 8, Giammattei gave indications of a reopening plan, saying it would involve four levels color coded from red to green based on the number of active cases per 100,000 residents to determine when each town could reopen. “For the municipality that behaves the best, that has less contagion, the prize will be having greater levels of reopening each day,” he said. Previously, Guatemala’s Health Ministry released protocols defining four reopening phases, first publishing them on June 2 followed by a second version on June 3 with corrections. The phases, numbered 0 through 3, did not have definitive dates, but were intended to each last 14 days  based on a period when cases and hospital occupancy must decline (phase 0) to a “new normal” with protective measures in place (phase 3). 
  • Mitigation measures: Guatemala’s containment measures are based on a state of calamity first announced on March 6 for 30 days and extended each month since then. On June 24, Giammattei extended the state of calamity through August 5. The state of calamity allows the government to enforce a range of measures over time, from preventing price gouging to halting gatherings. Measures include:
    •  On June 14, with confirmed cases rising above 300 per day, the president limited vehicular transit based on license plate numbers. The measure focused on departments with a high number of cases on most days and nationwide restrictions on the movement of cars and people on Sundays. He announced an extension of the measure on June 28 for 15 days with slightly modified rules.
    • On May 14, the president declared a total shutdown of the country on weekends, with only trucks transporting essential goods or people with grave illnesses permitted to circulate during that time. He then suspended the weekend lockdowns on May 31, and reduced overnight curfews to run from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. The initial curfew, which began on March 22 and ran nightly from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., was extended on March 29 and April 12, with hours initially reduced on April 19
    • On May 10, with confirmed cases exceeding 1,000 for the first time, the president announced that markets would be closed in cases where social distancing is not practiced, shopping malls will be fined even for partial opening, people spreading rumors about the pandemic would be subject to punishment, hospitals that do not inform on coronavirus cases or violate protocols would face sanctions, and transit between the country’s departments would be restricted on a national level. 
    • On March 14, the Health Ministry suspended religious events, gatherings of more than 100 people, and Easter celebrations. Then, on March 17, the government prohibited events of any size, halted public transport, ended visits to institutions housing senior citizens, closed shopping malls, prohibited drinking after 5 p.m., and suspended visits to prisons. Shops had to close from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. except in the case of pharmacies and essential basic services. 
  • Travel and border restrictionsOn July 8, the president indicated that he would speak with airlines to certify flights and said that, once airports reopen, people traveling to Guatemala would undergo testing. He also suggested that, in the coming six to eight weeks, Central America should come to an agreement about air travel. The Guatemalan government closed all forms of borders on March 17, prohibiting entry by foreigners. Prior to that, Giammattei announced March 13 that he would restrict travel from the United States and Canada, thereby expanding an earlier travel ban involving any country where community transmission had occurred. On March 15, the Health Ministry added European foreign nationals to the list. His government had already imposed travel restrictions on people returning from China as early as January. The restrictions allowed Guatemalans to enter from countries on the travel prohibition list, but required them to self-quarantine.
    • On May 21, Giammattei said: “Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but I don’t believe the U.S. is an ally to Guatemala, because they don’t treat us like one.” On more than one occasion, the Guatemalan government, which has criticized the Trump administration for sending coronavirus-infected deportees to the country, announced it was halting deportation flights from the United States, but those flights have generally continued. Before that, on May 20, Giammattei asked Mexico for more health controls to ensure that Guatemalan deportees are not sent to the country with coronavirus. 
  • School closings and restrictions: The government first announced on March 14 that schools would close for three weeks but this time period was extended and, as of early June, the Education Ministry had yet to establish a full reopening plan, although it was considering extending the school calendar later in the fall. 
  • Other updates:
    • The president sacked Health Minister Hugo Monroy on June 19 and replaced him with María Amelia Flores González, who has more than 30 years of public health experience and served in the administration of ex-President Óscar Berger. Monroy had faced criticism for a lack of transparency in his management of the health crisis. On June 16, Acción Ciudadana, a Guatemalan organization focused on transparency issues, called on country’s top prosecutor office to strip Monroy of political immunity for violating the right to access to information, given “systematic opacity” when it came to the delivery of coronavirus figures, particularly in terms of death counts. Monroy acknowledged technical errors in the counts. On June 30, the new minister pledged an audit of the counts.
    • Per a May 27 report, Guatemala is among five Latin American countries witnessing an accelerated increase in food prices. In early April, Guatemalans began taking to the streets with white flags, asking for money to alleviate hunger. After that, per the Guardian, a color-based flag system has come into use in which red flags represents a need for medicine while “black, yellow, or blue means that a woman, child or elderly person is in danger of violence.” 
    • The president completed his first 100 days in office on April 23. Of that time, 51 days were during this state of health calamity.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: In June, the World Bank forecast the country would see a GDP contraction of 3 percent in 2020 after having predicted a 1.8 percent contraction in April.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: On June 10, the IMF’s executive board approved $594 million in emergency assistance to Guatemala amid the pandemic. On March 12, Congress approved the president’s proposed state of calamity bill with a fund of roughly $30 million for prevention and containment.
  • Social programs:
    • On May 7, Nomada.gt detailed the 10 government assistance programs set up to mitigate the pandemic’s economic effects, ranging from a daily minimum payment of $10 for workers laid off in the formal sector, to foodstuffs and food coupons for vulnerable populations, to a daily credit going to 200,000 families to cover breakfasts for public school students.
    • On April 29, Giammattei vetoed an April 3 legislative measure that would have guaranteed citizens access to basic services during the pandemic. On April 30, the legislature overturned the veto. On May 3, Giammattei, said no law was needed as he had come to an agreement with business leaders that water, electricity, phone, and internet services will not be suspended in cases of unpaid bills and that people could negotiate one-year repayment plans with these companies. On May 21, legislation guaranteeing public services during the pandemic was published in the government’s official gazette
    • 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.
  • Other updates:

Honduras

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: On June 21, the Honduran government announced that the capital Tegucigalpa would revert to phase zero of its reopening process due to a spike in cases. The rest of the country remained in phase one, which began June 8 according to the plan drafted by the multisector body in charge of overseeing the country’s reopening strategy. The plan, announced on May 29, divides the country into three non-contiguous regions, each comprising municipalities based on their number of confirmed cases and population sizes. The first region, with those municipalities with the fewest cases, has a three-phase reopening while the third region, with the most, will go through five. Accordingly, 60 percent of workers returned to their posts in municipalities in the first region, 40 percent in the second, and 20 percent in the third. All three regions kicked off their initial phases on June 1 with “week zero,” a period during which sectors had to make the necessary preparations to meet the biosafety protocols established May 4 by Honduras’ Labor Secretariat
  • Mitigation measures:  On June 28, the government extended the national curfew, which was set to expire that day, until July 12, following 10 previous extensions through April 28, April 19, April 26, May 3, May 17, May 24, June 7, June 14, and June 28. Though authorities instituted a measure to restrict movement based on license plate numbers with the new curfew extension, that measure was scrapped after 24 hours. For now, authorities will continue to restrict weekday transit based on identification cards between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m, when curfew begins. Citizens must wear face masks, carry hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing when visiting the locations authorized to open under the country’s first reopening phase (see next bullet). All must remain at home during the weekends. Below are other measures the Honduran government has taken:
    • The government launched an initiative on June 15 to deploy medical brigades to areas in the country that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, where they will scout for possible cases and provide basic treatment.
    • Through an April 3 statement, Honduras’ emergency management system (SINAGER) called on local governments to identify plots of land that could be used for mass graves in case the number of deaths surpasses the country’s capacity to process corpses. SINAGER also announced that it was barring all wakes and in-hospital autopsies. 
    • A state of exception went into effect on March 16 for seven days that allowed for the suspension of constitutional rights for seven days. Before that decree, the country’s national risk management agency announced on March 15 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. 
    • On March 14, the government decreed a two-week long national red alert
  • Travel and border restrictions: Starting June 19, a four-phase reopening plan of airports went into effect. Under the first phase, domestic and international airlines had to submit biosecurity manuals to Honduras’ aeronautics agency. Once these manuals are approved, phase two will involve the gradual reopening of domestic travel while phase three will involve international travel. Phase four will be reached when all operations have resumed. Hernández announced the closing of all borders on March 15 with the exception of Honduran nationals and permanent residents.
    •  When it comes to deportation flights, such flights have continued in spite of a March 10 suspension by the Honduran government. Authorities announced that, as of April 29, Honduras had four temporary isolation centers that can accommodate up to 1,050 deportees. Upon arrival, deportees will be required to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantines in these centers.
  • School closings and restrictions: Schools and universities have remained closed under the country’s national curfew extended now until June 28. Initially, the government announced that all public and private schools would be closed for two weeks starting March 13.
  • Other updates:

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: June figures from the World Bank show that the Honduran economy will contract by 5.8 percent in 2020, a worse outlook compared to the Bank’s April projection of a 2.3 percent contraction. The country’s economy contracted by 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2020, the Honduran Central Bank (BCH) announced on May 22.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: When it comes to international organizations, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration announced on April 21 that it approved a $200 million contingent credit line for Honduras to “strengthen the position and liquidity management capacity” of the bank. Before that, the World Bank approved a credit worth $119 million on April 10 and the IMF disbursed $143 million on March 31.
    • On the domestic front, the BCH approved a package of monetary policies to free up $465.5 million, the bank announced April 7. Among the policies, the bank announced the reduction of mandatory investments in the national currency along with a reduction in the BCH credit interest rate. In an extraordinary session on April 2, the Honduran Congress approved a number of economic measures aimed at alleviating the country’s productive sector and supporting workers including the creation of a trust to guarantee loans for the agricultural sector and micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. The legislature also authorized the presidency to issue debt worth up to $2.5 billion.
  • Social programs: As of mid-June, 70 percent of furloughed workers have received bonuses as part of the Temporary Solidarity Contribution program, per government figures released June 10. Over 100,000 workers so far have received up to $241 for three months. On June 16, the government extended a measure until August 31 that delays income tax payments for micro, small, and medium-sized business employees, which account for 70 percent of the workforce in the country. The government announced on April 2 that it would also extend the sales tax payments deadline for these businesses until June 30.
  • Other updates:
    • Per a July 2 report from the UN World Food Program (WFP), more than 1.6 million Hondurans are suffering from food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis, a sharp increase from the less than one million food-insecure Honduras prior to the pandemic. The WFP will launch a humanitarian aid program in the country to help 250,000 food-insecure families for three months.
    • On May 30, the government announced that it had launched a price observatory with the backing of the Inter-American Development Bank. The entity will oversee purchases made during the pandemic to guarantee reasonable prices for goods being acquired by the Honduran government and will make the information accessible to the public via an online portal. 

Mexico

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: The Mexican government announced its three-phase reopening plan to achieve a “new normal” on May 13, kicking off the first phase on May 18. That first phase involved more than 300 towns dubbed “municipalities of hope” that had no confirmed coronavirus cases and were given the green light to reopen businesses and schools, although some governors and local authorities delayed these reopenings due to a concern over lack of testing and pandemic spread. The second stage, which ran from May 18 to 31, involved preparation to reopen the country. The third stage began June 1 and involves a regular assessment within each of the country’s 32 states to determine reopening of social, educational, and economic activities based on a color-coded system running from red (more restrictive) to green (less restrictive, schools and public spaces can reopen). Although the initial announcement suggested the reopening of sectors deemed essential—including construction, auto manufacturing, and mining—this became less clear on May 14 when a government gazette suggested these sectors would be preparing to reopen during this time but would not restart until June 1. The government made a change again on May 15 when it said auto sector plants could restart operations before June 1 in cases where health and safety requirements had been met.
    • For the week of July 6, 15 states were at risk-level red (highest) and 17 were at orange (second highest). Five states—Chiapas, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz—slipped back to red due to rising hospital occupancy levels. Four states—Guerrero, Hidalgo Morelos, and Oaxaca—moved to orange, meaning businesses such as hotels and restaurants in those states could reopen while following health protocols such as enforcing limited capacity. Mexico City, which has the highest number of cases, shifted to orange on June 29. 
    • On June 16, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, of the governing Morena party, announced that the city will postpone Father’s Day from June 21 until August 16 to avoid gatherings. Although Mexico has kept testing levels at a relatively low level, Sheinbaum announced June 10 that, starting in July, the capital would conduct 100,000 tests per month, thereby increasing the daily testing average in the city by 145 percent. Mexico City has the largest number of cases and deaths, as well as the highest hospital bed occupancy rate in the country when compared to the other 31 states. 
    • On June 13, López Obrador released a decalogue outlining how to prepare for the “new normal,” with recommendations including staying informed about the state of health in the country, remaining optimistic, avoiding junk food, exercising, and seeking out a spiritual—even if not religious—path. On June 14, the president released a video saying the most difficult part of the pandemic was over, even though, on June 10, the WHO warned that Mexico is facing its “most dangerous moment” in its fight against the pandemic. 
    • In keeping with the reactivation plan, López Obrador restarted his domestic travels on June 1. He made the first international trip of his presidency on July 7 when he headed to the United States for an official meeting with Trump to celebrate the July 1 implementation of the USMCA trade deal. Early in pandemic days, López Obrador’s lax approach to the virus drew concern from some observers, particularly in March, when the president continued to spend weekends traveling through Mexico and shared videos on social media in which he could be seen making physical contact with supporters. He subsequently changed his tone, and, on April 15, the office of the president announced that López Obrador would suspend his tours
  • Mitigation measures: May 31 marked the last day of Mexico’s National Period of Healthy Distancing ahead of the June 1 start of a “new normal” and staggered reactivation of the economy. However, López Obrador indicated on June 1 that a new outbreak could lead to new periods of social distancing. Below is a timeline of mitigation efforts:
    • On May 3, López-Gatell clarified that Mexico is no longer following the Sentinel Surveillance technique, which focuses on monitoring over widespread testing, given that the country entered Phase 3 on April 21. Instead, Mexico has shifted to a method based on hospital occupancy and available beds.
    • The government announced on April 21 that the country had entered Phase 3, when there would be a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations. López-Gatell indicated that social distancing measures implemented in Phase 2 would continue and he urged all companies engaged in non-essential work that had not yet shut down to do so.
    • On the evening of March 30, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard declared a national health emergency. This came as López-Gatell announced suspension of all non-essential activities, no gatherings of more than 50 people in the case of essential sectors, and self-quarantine for people over 60 and at-risk health populations. Ebrard clarified that the emergency measure is not a state of exception involving armed authorities and that companies that avoided paying workers or defied rules could face sanctions. On the morning of March 31, López-Gatell shared a list of essential services, which range from tax collection to elderly care centers to supermarkets. 
    • On March 24, the government declared that the country had entered phase 2 of the epidemic after the WHO categorized it among countries with community transmission. The government suspended public and private gatherings of 100 people or more. In addition, the Finance Ministry said it would 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. On the following day, López-Gatell said the federal government would stop all non-essential operations.
    • 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.” 
  • Travel and border restrictions: On June 16, Mexico announced the extension of border restrictions with the United States—set to expire June 21—until July 21. Mexico and the United States initially announced restrictions, which don’t apply to commerce, on March 20. Extensions were announced on April 20 and May 19. Mexico’s immigration agency reported on April 26 that it had nearly emptied its detention centers and that the total number of migrants still being held had been reduced to just over 100 after deporting 3,653 people to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. 
  • School closings and restrictions: Per a May 30 announcement, schools will reopen nationally on August 10 with a staggered attendance system based alphabetically on last names that means children will only physically be in school two days a week. The first phase will involve a period of evaluation to catch up some students while the official start to the new school cycle is September 21. The country’s social security system announced the reopening of daycare centers starting July 9, with those in “red zones” at 25 percent capacity and only serving the children of essential workers. 
  • Other updates:
    • Per an El Financiero poll conducted in June and published July 1, 58 percent of Mexicans consider the government’s handling of the pandemic to be a failure.
    • On the evening of Friday, May 15, Mexico’s Energy Ministry fast-tracked, via the official federal gazette, a new measure that gives the government greater control of the electricity market. Citing COVID-19, the new rule’s stated intention is to allow the national electric system to “ensure reliability” and adds that renewables “will have to be postponed during the pandemic.” Critics say the move jeopardizes more than 40 solar and wind projects and $30 billion in investments while favoring the government’s fossil-fuel power plants. The move faced legal challenges, with a court decision reported on June 11 allowing renewable energy projects to continue. 
    • Early in the morning of March 31, Mexico received 100,000 masks, 50,000 test kits, and five artificial respirators donated by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation and facilitated by the Chinese government. In addition, the first of 20 shipments from China arrived on April 7 and Ebard said April 9 that the government had invested more than $56 million in medical purchases from China. 

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecastsMexico’s GDP contracted 17.3 percent in April—the first full month the country observed social distancing—compared to March, per a June 26 Reuters report. On June 24, the IMF predicted a 2020 GDP contraction of 10.5 percent. This marks a sharp decline from the agency’s April forecast, when it had the contraction at 6.6 percent. On May 27, the Bank of Mexico spelled out three different scenarios for the Mexican economy this year and predicted the country could see a GDP contraction in the range of 4.6 percent to 8.8 percent—the latter being a drop not seen since a 14 percent contraction in 1932. The Bank also suggested that as many as 1.4 million jobs could be lost in the worst-case scenario. In late February, just prior to the first confirmed case in Mexico, the Bank had forecast GDP growth of between 0.5 and 1.5 percent and between 440,000 and 540,000 jobs created. On May 21, the president announced that the country will start measuring an alternative GDP index that takes into account areas such as well-being, social inequality, and happiness.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy:
    • The austerity-focused López Obrador government has resisted a broad stimulus package. A June 16 Financial Times report found that Mexico’s microloan program, which initially offered 1 million credits on March 24 and has been expanded to 4 million, had distributed about 1.5 million credits and with no loan larger than $1,100. As of May 22, López Obrador said his administration had given out $1.9 billion in microloans to homeowners, the formally and informally employed, and SMEs, with the goal to award $13 billion in credits overall. 
    • On April 26, a business association known as the Mexican Business Council announced a private-sector agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank to help give loans of up to $12 billion to about 30,000 micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises amid the pandemic. During his April 27 press conference, López Obrador expressed suspicion of the pact, saying, “I don’t like the way they come to an agreement and want to impose their plans. Things aren’t like they used to be.” Also during the morning conference, the labor minister named companies that had not complied with work suspension rules.
    • On April 22, López Obrador announced an 11-point economic plan amid the pandemic. Measures include pay cuts of as much as 25 percent for high-level public workers, the elimination of 10 deputy minister posts, and a commitment to austerity. His administration’s social programs and infrastructure projects—such as the Dos Bocas oil refinery, an airport expansion, and a train system—will continue. The president had previously confirmed that these major projects would go ahead in an April 5 speech.
    • In an extraordinary session on April 21, Banco de México unveiled a $31 billion stimulus and cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 points to 6.0 percent. Taken together with prior measures, the moves amount to 3.3 percent of the 2019 GDP and will cover financing for banks to boost credit for small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as implement hedge transactions to decrease the peso’s volatility. The Bank had previously taken the same step on March 20, when it trimmed the rate to 6.50 percent.
  • Social programs:
  • Other updates:
    • Per a June 30 report by the Bank of Mexico, remittances rose year-on-year by 10 percent in the first five months of 2020. The increase was aided in part by a peso’s depreciation; Bloomberg reports that the average remittance transaction in May was $319 compared to $322 a year earlier. 
    • On June 30, Aeromexico filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the goal of restructuring its debt. Per a June 10 national statistics agency report, the Mexican tourism industry saw a 78.5 percent decline in international visitors in April, with the greatest decline—98.1 percent––among those arriving via air travel. Mexico was among the world’s ten-most visited countries in 2019 and its tourism sector contributes 8.7 percent of GDP.
    • Per a report released June 11 by the national statistics agency, Mexico’s industrial activity dropped 25 percent in April compared to March—the largest monthly decline since data collection began in 1993. The construction and manufacturing sectors were hit hardest, dropping 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from the same month a year earlier.
    • Official figures released on June 1 show that 12 million people, whether formal or informal laborers, stopped working in April and it is uncertain whether they will return to work. The report also found that about 2.1 million people are actively unemployed and seeking work. A May 13 report by México ¿cómo vamos? that used data from the country’s social security institution found that Mexico experienced a record-setting number of job losses in April, with more than 555,000 jobs lost, due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. On May 14, The Los Angeles Times reported that 10.7 million people—or 8.5 percent of the population—could fall into extreme poverty this year, another 2 million job losses could be added by the end of 2020. 
    • On May 26, the Bank of Mexico indicated a risk of capital flight; Mexicans transferred more than $5 billion in assets abroad during the first quarter of 2020.
    • López Obrador suggested that, once the COVID-19 emergency passes, he would reexamine the country’s pension system while criticizing its prior privatization. Some workers have begun to withdraw funds from their pensions amid the pandemic.
    • Pemex posted a $23 billion loss in the first quarter of the year, given a crash in oil prices related to a drop in demand amid the pandemic. On April 20, Mexico’s crude oil exports closed at -$2.37 per barrel, down 116 percent from the April 17 close, when Moody’s downgraded state oil firm Pemex bonds to junk. López Obrador has focused on reviving the country’s sagging oil sector. On April 12, after four days of OPEC+ meetings aimed at slashing production to boost oil prices and with Mexico the hurdle to closing the deal, the López Obrador government agreed to cut its production by just 100,000 barrels per day (bpd). The United States absorbed the other 300,000 bpd in cuts to hit the group’s global target.
    • On April 3, López Obrador ordered the cancellation of government public trusts. The funds will be redirected by April 15 to the Federal Treasury. The 281 public trusts represent more than $10 billion, which, per the president, will be used for social programs, economic recovery and credit lending, support for state oil firm Pemex, and public debt payments. Some trusts used for emergency purposes, to be decided by the finance ministry, will require legal changes. 

Nicaragua

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: The country has not gone into lockdown and so does not have a reopening strategy. 
  • Mitigation measures: Ortega’s administration has not instituted extensive mitigation measures and has instead promoted large events. In fact, Ortega went missing from the public eye for 34 days between March 12 and April 15, after which he addressed the nation in a televised address and put an end to speculation as to his whereabouts and wellbeing. During the April 15 address, the president said that Nicaragua hadn’t “stopped working, because if this country stops working, it dies.” As a result, civil organizations in the country have taken the following steps:
    • In a June 10 statement, leaders from Nicaragua’s private sector called on the government to institute 14 health, economic, and social measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in the country. 
    • Before that, in a June 1 letter, over 30 medical associations in Nicaragua warned that the “exponential increase” in COVID-19 cases in the country has already led to the collapse of both the public and private healthcare systems. The group urged Nicaraguans to come together in a voluntary national four-week quarantine to slow contagion.
    • Since then, Nicaragua’s private sector and the Pan-American Health Organization both joined the call for a voluntary quarantine and stricter health measures in mid-June. A month earlier, in a televised May 1 message, Ortega denounced stay-at-home and social distancing orders as “extreme” and “radical” measures that would “destroy the country.” 
    • Some of the minimal mitigation steps that the government has taken include cleaning and disinfecting some street markets and public transportation units in mid-April. Moreover, per a May 6 report by the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial, the government began rotating public employees, asking some to work from home and sending others on vacation to avoid contagion. Murillo stated in mid-April that health authorities had been visiting households across the country to verify their sanitation measures and give each family information about preventive measures. Before authorities confirmed the country’s first case, Ortega’s administration announced in early March that it would ban wakes and funerals for those who die of the virus.
  • Travel and border restrictionsAirlines that operate in the country announced on June 29 that they will not resume flights in and out of Nicaragua until August, after they suspended their services in May. Though the government has not officially ordered the country’s borders closed, the government prevented the return of Nicaraguan migrants and canceled repatriation flights in mid-April and then again in late June
  • School closings and restrictions: Schools have been open since April 20 after they were closed for two weeks in mid-April. Starting May 4, a number of universities offer some courses virtually while others have taken steps to cut the number of students and faculty present on campus any given day by assigning them days of the week.
  • Other updates:

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP projections: June projections from the World Bank show that Nicaragua’s economy will contract by 6.3 percent this year, down from the Bank’s April prediction of a 4.3 contraction. In a May report, The Economist Intelligence Unit forecast that Nicaragua’s economy will contract by as much as 6.5 percent, after previously forecasting a 1.5 percent contraction in a January report.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: The Central Bank of Nicaragua instituted four monetary measures on June 22, including reducing the country’s reference rate, and injected $116 million into the country’s economy. As of May 10, Nicaragua’s government had received at least $15.3 million in economic aid to mitigate the pandemic’s effects from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Taiwan’s government, and the Pan American Health Organization. However, the government has not announced any economic measures in relation to these funds.
  • Social programs: None have been announced during the pandemic.
  • Other updates:

Panama

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: Both April and June projections by the World Bank show that Panama stands to see a 2 percent GDP contraction.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: On May 27, the government extended until July 17 its grace period to pay the income tax that was due on March 31. The extension first went into effect on March 20. The government announced on May 26 that it had restructured its budget by $2 billion to free up funds for the government’s response to the pandemic. In the international front, Panama has relied on the following economic policies:
    • On the international front, Cortizo announced on April 13 that the Panamanian government had secured $1.3 billion in credit lines from multilateral organizations. Panama received $500 million from the IMF and an equal amount from the World Bank to invest in employment, health, and security, and the final $300 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for medium and small companies and the agricultural sector. 
    • On March 26, the Panamanian government sold $2.5 billion in sovereign bonds in the cross-border market in order to divert funds from the country’s budget to combat the pandemic. Panama was the first country in the region to issue sovereign bonds amid the pandemic.
  • Social programs: On June 30, Cortizo signed a measure instituting a moratorium on a number of payments—including mortgages, a variety of loans, and credit cards—until December 31, 2020. The president had previously reached an agreement with the Panama Banking Association on May 4 to put in place such a moratorium, when Cortizo also signed a measure to suspend payments on public services—including electricity, internet, and phone bills—for the next four months. Cortizo launched Panama Solidario on March 27, an initiative to collect and distribute funds and resources to Panama’s poorest communities. After protesters across Panama complained they had not having received any aid from the program as of mid-April, the president announced April 29 that the digital platform for Panama Solidario would be available starting April 30, through which funds began to be disbursed in May. A March 20 executive order mandates that companies suspend worker contracts if a business has to temporarily close, meaning that employees will not be paid but won’t necessarily be fired. Figures from Panama’s Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development show that, as of April 15, nearly 50,000 Panamanians saw their employment contracts suspended in one month.
  • Other updates:
    • In May, crossings through the Panama Canal––which is used by 6 percent of global trade––dropped by 21 percent due to decreases in international trade, according to figures from the Panama Canal Authority (APC). The ACP announced on March 25 that ships attempting to cross through the Canal had to meet a number of safety requirements, including that all aboard each ship be healthy.
    • Moody’s projected in mid-April that Panama’s public debt will expand to 53 percent of the country’s GDP with the deficit growing 2.2 percent.  

Paraguay

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Government response

  • Reopening plan On June 23, the government extended phase three of “intelligent quarantine” through July 19. The new phase of social distancing rules permits sit-in dining at restaurants and scheduled gyms visits to resume, both at a limited capacity, as well as in-person classes in high schools with a cap of 10 students per class, while all other levels of schooling remain suspended indefinitely.
  • Mitigation measures:
  • Travel and border restrictions: On April 24, the government announced that the March 24 border closure decree is extended indefinitely, including the suspension of incoming commercial and private flights, while 13 border stations remain in operation for the transport of goods and merchandise, as well as the exit of foreign nationals. 
  • School closings and restrictions: On April 27, Abdo Benítez announced the suspension of school classes until December. School closures were first announced on March 10.
  • Other updates
    • On June 6, President Mario Abdo Benítez signed a law that the Superior Court for Electoral Justice must update the electoral calendar to reschedule municipal elections, which would have taken place in November 2020, to 2021 as a result of the pandemic. The order also mandates that party candidates be chosen between 90 and 120 days prior to the new voting date and incumbents shall hold office until new leaders take office.  Showing strict consequences for politicians as well, on April 15, María Eugenia Bajac lost her Senate seat after violating quarantine and attending a legislative session while positive for COVID-19 on April 1, causing Congress to close for two weeks. Bajac said she did not know she had the virus at the time. Other legislators who have been charged with violating social distancing rules remain under investigation. 

Economic impact and measures

  • Social programs:
    • The Finance Ministry revealed on June 17 that the government has distributed $1.2 million to different programs under the March 16 health emergency to fight the pandemic, with $243 million of that sum going into health, education, and security services in April and May.
    • On May 29, the government announced a second wave of subsidy payments to those who lost their jobs. The program is part of a $100 million social welfare emergency program announced on March 26. In an expansion to the original decree, this measure now includes workers who earn more double the minimum salary. On May 13, the Development Ministry announced it would distribute an additional $4.8 million in the form of direct debit deposits to roughly 165,229 Paraguayans via the Tekoporã social welfare program, after on March 25, the government announced the Ñangareko program, involving money transfers for food and hygiene products to roughly 33,000 families whose income has been affected by quarantine.

Peru

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

Puerto Rico

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Government response

  • Reopening plan: The island entered phase four of its reopening process on July 1, per a June 28 executive order issued by the governor. Under the new phase, the governor extended the island-wide curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. through July 22, making the island’s curfew the longest of its kind in any U.S. jurisdiction. Starting in July, government agencies will open to the public while casinos, restaurants, and businesses may operate at 75 percent capacity.
    • Prior to that, the island had entered phase three of its reopening process on June 16 under which nearly all restrictions were lifted.Starting June 16, all businesses were able to operate seven days a week, and all beaches were ordered to reopen. While the governor had under phase two authorized the reopening of businesses such as stores and malls, restaurants, hair salons, houses of worship, and funeral homes, all established had been ordered to remain closed on Sundays since mid-March. The use of face masks at all times remains mandatory, as has been the case since April.
    • Puerto Rico began its reopening process on May 4 with the construction and manufacturing sectors. Supermarkets, pharmacies, medical equipment stores, gas stations, hardware stores, car repair shops, and banks have been operating since mid-April
  • Mitigation measures: Though Vázquez instituted a contact tracing system on April 2, the island has continuously struggled to uphold the surveillance system. A month after the system went into effect, the Health Department had only followed up on a third of all confirmed cases. Vázquez instituted an island-wide lockdown on March 15 and curfew, which she has now extended in part five times—on June 11, May 21, April 30, April 11, and March 26. Previously, in a March 13 press conference, Vázquez announced the suspension of cruises entering ports. The governor had already declared an island-wide state of emergency on March 12.  
  • Travel and border restrictions: The governor announced on June 30 that starting July 15 passengers arriving in Puerto Rico must take a molecular test 72 hours prior to their flight and then present their negative results to officials at the airport. Those who do not comply will be administered a rapid test at the airport, and if they test positive, they will be ordered to undergo a two-week quarantine and a molecular test to get out of isolation. Before that, on June 11, Vázquez announced that Puerto Rico would open to international tourism starting July 15, though the U.S. territory never closed its borders. Vázquez asked the Federal Aviation Agency on April 8 to bar Puerto Rico-bound flights from six U.S. cities considered to be coronavirus hotspots, and, while the agency did not grant the request, it did limit Puerto Rico-bound commercial flights to the San Juan international airport starting late March in response to a request from Vázquez.
  • School closings and restrictions: Vázquez called on public and private schools to begin preparing for reopening in August, adding that they are to remain closed until at least July 22. Universities, on the other hand, have been given the green light to reopen starting July 1. Public schools and universities transitioned to online learning in mid-March, after which the Education Department announced on April 23 that students in kindergarten through twelfth grade will automatically pass the school year.
  • Other updates:

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: The FOMBPR warned on May 26 that the island is likely to experience a deficit in the coming years as its surplus may plunge by up to 65 percent between 2020 and 2032, leaving the government unable to meet its debt obligations as the island attempts to restructure a debt exceeding $70 billion.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: Vázquez signed into law on June 14 a second package of economic measures to mitigate pandemic-related economic fallout. The new law automatically extends commercial licenses and permits by six months and eliminates for three months the 4 percent tax on professional services. The governor announced the island’s first economic package on March 23, worth $787 million. That one, which at the time of its announcement was the largest one presented by U.S. states and territories, included a 90-day moratorium on a number of payments and an incentive of $1,500 to businesses with 50 employees or fewer that had to close and don’t qualify for federal aid. The FOMBPR approved a revised fiscal plan for the island on May 27 that temporarily suspends all cuts to the government’s budget. 
  • Social programs: The U.S. territory received $2.2 billion on April 22 as part of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion federal economic relief package.
    • Puerto Ricans are eligible to receive the federal economic incentive of $1,200 available to most U.S. citizens under the CARES Act. In the case of Puerto Rico, the local Treasury Department could not disburse funds from the federal stimulus until the U.S. Treasury approved the island’s plan for distribution on May 1.
    • Vázquez unveiled her administration’s plan for the federal funds during a press conference on May 14, outlining dozens of programs focused around three pillars: strengthening the government’s response to the pandemic, reviving and protecting the island’s economy, and maintaining “continuity in government operations.” On April 13, Vázquez signed a resolution to place a moratorium on personal loans, car loans, mortgages, and credit cards until the end of June. The new measure, which is voluntary and up to each individual to use, also bars interest fees and other penalties in relation to these payments.
  • Other updates:
    • The island’s Labor Secretary Briseida Torres resigned June 9 after complaints emerged regarding her mismanagement of processing and disbursing unemployment requests amid the pandemic. Chaos broke out in early June as thousands of Puerto Ricans waited in line for hours to request the federal pandemic unemployment aid, culminating in death threats toward employees from the Labor Department and a stabbing.

Uruguay

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Government response

  • Reopening planOn June 26, the government approved a protocol to reopen certain businesses starting June 29, such as hotels—where guests will have their temperature taken upon arrival, restaurants, bars, and cafés. This reopening will only occur under strict health guidelines, such as social distancing, mandatory use of face masks, and hand sanitizer. On June 4, the government announced a plan to reopen shopping malls starting June 9, except for those in the city of Rivera on the Brazilian border, with businesses and shoppers required to wear facemasks and follow social distancing and hygiene protocols.
  • Mitigation measures: Uruguay has been credited with acting swiftly to mitigate the outbreak, with President Luis Lacalle Pou announcing a health emergency on March 13 when the first cases were confirmed. While never establishing mandatory quarantine, the country enforced a high testing rate, which contributed to the slow rise in cases; by May 5, the government reached its objective of carrying out over 1,000 daily tests. On June 30, the country’s testing rate was 19.09 per one thousand people, the fourth highest region. On May 10, the Montevideo government also made the use of face masks on public transport mandatory. Previously, on March 17, the government announced the closing of stores and shopping malls to contain the spread of contagion.
  • Travel and border restrictions: On July 6, the government announced that nationals entering the country must present a negative PCR test result from up to 72 hours before travel and a declaration of symptoms or lack thereof. Also, a second test must be done after one week in the country. On March 25 the government announced the total closing of land, sea, and air borders. On June 29 Tourism Minister Germán Cardoso announced that borders remain closed to commercial flights from Europe, and only Uruguayan nationals or those with permanent residencies may return in humanitarian charter flights. The European Union meanwhile announced that, out of all Latin American nationalities, it will only allow Uruguayans to enter via air travel.
    • On May 25, Lacalle Pou announced new measures agreed to with his Brazilian counterpart in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the border city of Rivera. Uruguay’s Ministries of the Interior and Defense announced it would establish four check-points to reduce movement of vehicles and people across the border, and conduct 1,100 random tests. On May 13, the Minister of National Defense Javier García announced that the Armed Forces established 800 checkpoints and completed 2,300 patrols along the country’s border with Brazil in two months. The government first announced on May 5 it would increase health checks on the Brazilian border, after expressing concern over contagion levels in that country and recognizing that commercial activity in peripheral cities allows for daytime border crossings, despite the government having closed land borders with Brazil on March 22 and then announcing on March 25 the total closing of land, sea, and air borders.
  • School closings and restrictionsOn June 29, the government began phase three of school reopenings, announcing that over 200,000 more students returned to in-person classes across the country. This phase covers 230 schools, including 33 in the Brazilian border city of Rivera. After the city of Treinta y Tres experienced an outbreak, the government announced the suspension of all schools there until July 3. On June 15 the government began phase two with the resumption of in-person classes for 420,000 students returning to classes in 156 technical schools, 200 high schools, and over 1,000 public schools, after a three-month suspension.
  • Other updates:
    • On May 15, the Health Ministry signed a first-time cooperation agreement with two state health service providers, the Medical Providers Federation of the Interior and the State Health Services Administration, to reinforce care for the elderly, regardless of what health insurance they may have. Over one month earlier on April 17, Lacalle Pou announced the formation of a commission of experts led by the Director of the Planning and Budget Office Isaac Alfie to advise the government on a gradual exit strategy to the health emergency.
    • On April 17, the Electoral Court set the new date of September 27 for municipal elections for the 19 provinces, postponed from the original May 10 date.
    • In a move to address domestic dangers early on, on March 28, the government announced on March 28 measures to stop the rise of gender violence during social distancing, including an awareness campaign on social and mainstream media, a hotline for emergencies, and a protocol created alongside the Health Ministry for personnel to detect possible instances of domestic violence.

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: A June World Bank report projected Uruguay’s GDP to contract 3.7 percent in 2020, one whole point higher than the A World Bank semiannual April report projects projecting Uruguay’s GDP to contract 2.7 percent in 2020 this year, receding from a 0.2 percent expansion in 2019.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy: On April 29, the government announced an investment stimulus plan that includes new tax exemptions for large-scale investments. On March 24, the government announced it would 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. As one of the first economic measures taken by the government, on March 19 the Central Bank announced it would provide credit lines to companies of around $50 million, while working with multilateral organizations to augment this sum to up to $125 million.
  • Social programs:
    • On May 8, the government applied a provisional measure to last through May 31 that widens definitions for access to unemployment benefits and includes workers who were employed from three to five months in the last year instead of just the last six months, as well as education, cultural, and sports professionals whose jobs were affected by the pandemic.
    • Previously, on April 13, the Labor and Social Security Ministry announced the extension until May 31 of an unemployment subsidy, first announced on March 18, from the Social Welfare Bank of Uruguay or employees with partial suspensions working between six and 19 days per month. Before that, on April 2 the government announced that a $154 subsidy to self-employed workers for two months and unemployment benefits worth 25 percent of monthly salaries will be extended through May 31. Also, the Central Bank and the National Internal Audit agency will flexibilize credit loan payments for those who cannot pay, and the Mortgage Bank of Uruguay will delay debt payment deadlines.
    • On March 27, the Social Development Ministry announced it will distribute food baskets to roughly 157,000 informal workers and those without social security in April and May. 
    • On April 1, the Senate approved the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, made up of loans from domestic and international financial institutions, to cover government disbursements during the health emergency. On March 26, the government also 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 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.
  • Other updatesOn April 16, the Central Bank announced monetary policy adjustments, including extensions to credit maturities, temporary reductions to bank reserves to stimulate credit lines, and temporary relaxation of stock market regulations. 

Venezuela

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Government response

Economic impact and measures

  • GDP forecasts: With its economy in freefall for several years now, neither the World Bank nor the IMF includes Venezuela in regular reports, citing lack of reliable data. That said, the IMF does put a rough estimate of a 15 percent contraction for 2020.
  • Fiscal stimulus and economic policy:
    • The Maduro government instituted price controls for 27 food products through the end of October in an effort to combat price speculation, Vice President Rodríguez announced April 25. The measure—which will affect Empresas Polar, the country’s largest food producer and one of the last large private companies in the country—comes in response to increased protests and looting of stores as health, food, and gasoline shortage crises converge.
    • Citing the pandemic as an accelerator for the migratory crisis and situation of migrants in their host countries, the European Union committed $158 million in immediate humanitarian aid for Venezuelan migrants in a meeting on May 26. Spain, which is contributing almost half of the funds, says it is prioritizing Colomba, Ecuador, and Peru as recipients for its monies. Additionally, the European Investment Bank approved $440 million worth in new credit lines for programs that attend to the migrants.
    • On March 17, the IMF denied a request by the Maduro government for a $5 billion emergency loan over the virus because there was “no clarity” as to who the country’s leader is—Maduro or Guaidó. The ask was a shift for Maduro, who derided the institution as recently as February.
    • On March 24, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, called for an easing of global sanctions against a handful of countries, including Venezuela and Cuba, to allow for these countries to receive humanitarian and medical supplies. Speaking on a March 26 AS/COA panel, Carrie Filipetti of the U.S. State Department noted that Washington’s sanctions on Caracas do in fact include “carve-outs” for humanitarian assistance.
  • Social programs:
    • On March 22, Maduro announced that layoffs are prohibited through December 31, all residential and commercial rent payments will be suspended for six months, effective immediately, and that the government would help small- and medium-sized businesses make their payrolls. He also mentioned that interest payments on loans would be suspended for six months as well.
  • Other updates: On April 20, global oil prices fell again so far that, given the discounts state oil firm PDVSA’s been offering, the country is now losing money on its barrels. Over 95 percent of Venezuelan exports come from oil production, which is down about 75 percent from its peak at the turn of the century. One symbol of the collapse: whereas cheap Venezuelan oil used to flood the Colombian black market, now the reverse is true as Venezuelan oil is so scarce and Colombian oil is comparatively cheaper.

*Editor's note: This article previously stated that an April 14 Brazilian measure involved relaxing labor provisions for employees between the ages of 29 and 55 years old. However, the measure applied to employees between 18 and 29 and over 55.

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