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Video: The Impact of the Coronavirus on Latin America and the Caribbean

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Speakers:

  • Nelson Arboleda, Director of the Office of the Americas, Office of the Secretary at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization
  • Ines Bustillo, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Washington Office
  • Amparo Elena Gordillo-Tobar, Senior Health Economist, The World Bank Group and Coordinator, World Bank’s COVID-19 response for Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Council of the Americas (moderator)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, experts gathered (sans audience) at the Council of the Americas offices in Washington, DC to discuss the impact of the coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean. PAHO/WHO’s Jarbas Barbosa noted that, although the virus has spread to 19 countries in just two weeks, the region hasn't seen widespread community transmissions yet as all cases are from travelers from abroad. Nelson Arboleda of HHS said the United States is offering bilateral technical assistance to regional health ministries and is looking at the possibility of utilizing tools like WhatsApp to share public health information and evaluating promising initiatives with the private sector to promptly share messages in Spanish and Portuguese. The World Bank's Amparo Elena Gordillo-Tobar said that about one third of the economic losses from the coronavirus will come from loss of life and workplace closures, while the remaining losses will come from economic uncertainty. 

It’s too early to assess and understand the complete impact of pandemic on the world economy because we don’t know the duration of the pandemic, said Ines Bustillo of ECLAC, adding that COVID-19 is different because it’s both a supply and a demand shock. Bustillo explained that countries that have already been applying fiscal restrictions now face a dilemma with their macroeconomic policy to deal with their response to the virus, which is causing currency devaluations throughout the region. 

Asked by moderator Eric Farnsworth for final recommendations for regional governments, panelists said to create partnerships, protect health workers, look for long-term sustainable solutions, “flatten the curve,” and look out for the most vulnerable.