Aviso LatAm: COVID-19 August 20

Three things to know

  • On August 15, COVID-19 cases in Latin America and the Caribbean, the world’s worst-affected region, exceeded 6 million.
  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned of an increase in other diseases, as the pandemic saturated health services and suspended routine vaccination campaigns.
  • According to PAHO, the Americas account for 64 percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, with more than 400,000 fatalities from the virus in North and South America.

By the numbers

  • Cases by country: Brazil (3,411,872) #2 worldwide, Peru (549,321) #6 worldwide, Mexico (531,239) #7 worldwide, Colombia (489,122) #8 worldwide, Chile (388,855) #9 worldwide, Argentina (305,966) #13 worldwide. [see full list below]
  • Prevalence rate (confirmed cases per million people): Chile (20,319) #5 worldwide, Panama (19,149) #6 worldwide, Peru (16,630) #9 worldwide, Brazil (16,036) #11 worldwide, Colombia (9,599) #21 worldwide, Bolivia (8,810) #23 worldwide [see full list below]
  • Deaths – total reported in the region: Brazil (110,019) #2 worldwide, Mexico (57,774) #3 worldwide, Peru (26,658) #9 worldwide, Colombia (15,619) #12 worldwide, Chile (10,546) #14 worldwide, Argentina (6,105) #22 worldwide [see full list below]

Quarantine & reopening plans

Over the last week, some countries continued to reopen, balancing economic and public health concerns.

  • On August 17, Chile eased its quarantine after almost five months of confinement, but authorities had to shut down a mall in downtown Santiago due to crowding.
  • Also on August 17, Panama saw the opening of various commercial activities, including barber shops, beauty parlors, and construction projects. Panama’s health minister, Luis Francisco Sucre, announced additional economic activities will resume operating on August 24. New mobility guidelines will also be announced then.
  • On August 18, Mexico’s Health Ministry announced the country is “in a declining phase” of the coronavirus outbreak. The previous day, Mexico registered its fewest new cases since June (3,571). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that the Mexican government will present a plan to reactivate the economy in two weeks.
  • On August 18, President Nayib Bukele affirmed that El Salvador had seen nine consecutive days of a decrease in COVID-19 infections. The government has allowed economic activities to resume on August 24. 

In tandem, other countries have chosen to reinstitute quarantine measures.

  • On August 16, Colombia’s number of recovered patients surpassed for the first-time that of new infections – 13,016 compared to 11,643. Still, President Iván Duque extended mandatory isolation until August 31. Bogota will adopt a shift-based approach to reopening after August 30, allowing businesses and factories to operate during different days/hours.
  • On August 14, Argentine President Alberto Fernández extended the lockdown until August 30 in and around the city of Buenos Aires.

International travel restrictions

Most countries continue to uphold widespread travel restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • Caribbean islands began reopening to tourists in early July, but international arrivals must observe a 14-day self-quarantine.
  • In the Bahamas, passengers must present a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival.
  • Belize reopened its borders on August 15 to air travel. Passengers have to present a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arrival or take a rapid test at the airport.
  • On August 17, Panama lifted travel restrictions on nationals and residents seeking entry into the country.
  • Colombia’s El Dorado airport will reopen in early September with three domestic routes (roundtrip): Bogotá – Cartagena, Bogotá – San Andrés and Bogotá – Leticia.
  • On August 18, LATAM Airlines, South America’s largest carrier, said it had laid off almost 30 percent of its workforce (about 12,600 employees) due to the pandemic.

Economies in focus

Economic Impact 

  • Latin American currencies weakened on August 17, with Mexico’s peso breaking a four-session winning streak.
  • On August 14, Mexican Central Bank Deputy Governor Jonathan Heath said there is still room to cut the benchmark interest rate but the decision will depend on how economic indicators evolve.
  • On August 18, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Lucas Palacios, said the country has left the worst of its recession behind. Economic activities have begun to recover from the biggest contraction recorded (Q2 2020, 14 percent drop year-on-year).
  • On August 18, Panama reported that COVID-19 will raise the country’s unemployment rate to 25 percent (up from 7 percent pre-COVID-19) and informality to 55 percent (up from 45 percent pre-COVID-19).
  • On August 19, Moody’s predicted that Colombia’s economy will contract 7.3 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic. Colombia’s GDP fell 16 percent in Q2 2020 year-on-year.

Economic Relief

  • On August 18, Chile’s Chamber of Deputies approved a bill that would temporarily lower taxes for micro- and small-sized businesses. The bill would also extend the period for companies to pay value-added tax to three months. On August 15, President Sebastian Piñera said three of four Chileans – 14 million people – are presently beneficiaries of some form of social support.
  • In Paraguay, more than 18,800 senior citizens registered for the government’s food program and more than 2 million people applied for a government assistance program for informal workers in the first seven months of 2020.

Health and innovation

A Message from PhRMA: Biopharmaceutical companies are sharing their knowledge and resources more than ever before to speed up the development of new medicines to fight COVID-19. They’re working with doctors and hospitals on over 1,432 clinical trials. Because science is how we get back to normal. Learn more.

  • On August 10, Argentina began clinical trials for the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • On August 12, a Brazilian technology institute in the state of Parana announced that it had signed an agreement with Russian authorities to produce a Russian vaccine by the second half of 2021. Other countries, including GuatemalaNicaragua, and Venezuela, are also working with Russia to test, produce, and distribute the Russian vaccine.
  • On August 11, Mexico announced that it would host advanced-phase clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines being developed by US (Janssen Pharmaceuticals/Johnson and Johnson) and Chinese (CanSino Biologics Inc.) companies, two of which could partly manufacture a vaccine in the country.
  • Peru is expecting to begin clinical trials in September for COVID-19 vaccines from US and UK laboratories, while also negotiating agreements with China to have access to vaccines at preferential prices.

Country Focus

  • Argentina: On August 16, Argentina’s government officially unveiled its amended bond restructuring offer and said creditors would have until August 28 to approve it. It filed the offer with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on August 17. On that day, thousands of Argentines marched around the country protesting the extended coronavirus lockdown, the government’s judicial reform, and the economic slowdown.
  • Brazil: On August 17, dozens of indigenous people blocked a major highway in Brazil’s Amazon, demanding additional COVID-related support from the government. They claimed to have few doctors, scarce personal protective equipment, and no nearby intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.
  • Colombia: Close to 1,000 delivery workers for SoftBank-backed mobile application Rappi wenton strike in Bogota on August 15, citing unfair working conditions.

By the numbers

  • Cases by country (continued): Bolivia (103,019), Ecuador (102,941), Dominican Republic (87,123), Panama (82,790), Guatemala (63,847), Honduras (51,670), Venezuela (35,697), Costa Rica (29,643) Source: ourworldindata.org
  • Prevalence rate (continued): Domincan Republic (8,021), Argentina (6,762), Ecuador (5,823), Costa Rica (5,812), Honduras (5,206), Mexico (4,115), El Salvador (3,654), Bahamas (3,617), Guatemala (3,555) Source: ourworldindata.org
  • Deaths (continued): Ecuador (6,105), Bolivia (4,172), Guatemala (2,419), Panama (1,809), Honduras (1,593), Dominican Republic (1,489), El Salvador (633) ourworldindata.org

Quick take

Your COVID-19 aviso

“Latin America and the Caribbean as a region bears the unfortunate distinction of being one of the global epicenters of COVID-19. The implications of this pandemic on public health, on the global economy, and on societies overall will last for years, making this the greatest shock to the region that we have seen in recent decades. To help guide thinking on a trajectory through and out of this crisis, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center today releases the first edition of our new, weekly aviso on COVID-19. Complementing our efforts to work with regional partners in supporting possible pathways forward, this aviso is a resource that will help inform thinking of how we can better work with our hemispheric neighbors in the midst of so much uncertainty. Now, more than ever, we will all have to work together to combat the negative effects of this disastrous pandemic.”

-Jason Marczak, Director, Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center