Aviso LatAm: COVID-19 October 2

What you should know

  • On September 30, health ministers across the Americas committed to maintain and expand sustained actions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. According to PAHO, the continent will most likely experience recurring epidemic waves and outbreaks of COVID-19 interspersed with periods of low-level transmission over the next 24 months, pending a safe vaccine.  
  • On September 29, the COVID-19 death toll surpassed one million worldwide. Latin America and the Caribbean leads in deaths per region, with more than 338,000. Brazil, Mexico, and Peru are among the world’s top ten.
  • A new Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center report highlights ways in which Central America can implement transformative structural reforms in the course of a post-pandemic recovery, if leaders in the region coordinate and invest in human capital.
  • On September 29, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced Mexico’s intent to join the COVAX access plan led by the World Health Organization, the Center for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Several Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, have already signed commitment agreements to the COVAX facility.

By the numbers

  • Cases by country: Brazil (4,780,317) #3 worldwide, Colombia (824,042) #5 worldwide, Peru (811,768) #6 worldwide, Mexico (738,163) # 8 worldwide, Argentina (736,609) #9 worldwide, Chile (461,300) # 12 worldwide.
  • Prevalence rate (total cases per million people): Aruba (41,053) #3 worldwide, Panama (25,824) #6 worldwide, Peru (24,536) #9 worldwide, Chile (24,080) #10 worldwide, Brazil (22,450) # 11 worldwide, Argentina (16,261) #19 worldwide.
  • Deaths – total reported in the region: Brazil (143,010) #2 worldwide, Mexico (77,163) #4 worldwide, Peru (32,396) #7 worldwide, Colombia (25,828) #11 worldwide, Argentina (16,519) #14 worldwide, Chile (12,725) #15 worldwide

Quarantine + reopening plans

Some countries in the region maintained restrictive measures; others continued their reopening plans.

  • On September 25, Rio De Janeiro’s League of Samba Schools announced that Brazil’s annual Carnival parade will not be held in February. This is the first time in a century that Rio’s Carnival has been disrupted. No new date for the parade has been set.
  •  Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced a gradual reopening. Restaurants could operate at 50 percent capacity and shopping centers at 60 percent beginning in October. The Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism published general operating guidelines for more than 100 tourist destinations ahead of a complete resumption of tourist activities.
  • The Panamanian Ministry of Health authorized retail businesses, hotels, restaurants, and all professional services to resume operations beginning September 28, provided operators comply with public health guidelines.
  • Interregional travel in Chile resumed on September 28 among communities in the third, fourth, and fifth stages of the national reopening plan. Authorities also lifted strict quarantine measures in Santiago, maintaining restrictions for only two neighborhoods affecting 3 percent of the city’s population. 
  • On September 29, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced the government would not request an extension of the state of emergency, which is set to expire on October 1. The cabinet is working round-the-clock to establish the new guidelines.
  • Campeche became the first Mexican state to be classified as green (low risk), under Mexico’s four light traffic light system. Of the remaining 31 states, 15 states are classified as orange (high risk) and 16 are classified yellow (medium risk). The risk rating will be updated on October 11.

International travel restrictions

  • Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced that international flights would resume on October 5.
  • Costa Rican Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura confirmed that beginning October 1, travelers from Mexico and Jamaica would be permitted to enter the country. Costa Rica had previously authorized the entry of travelers from a variety of countries, including Japan, Australia, Uruguay, and New Zealand.  

Economies in focus

Economic impact 

  • The International Labour Organization’s latest assessment finds the Americas experienced the greatest decrease in labor income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, falling 12.1 percent. The region also suffered a 28 percent reduction in working hours, the world’s largest loss.
  • Argentina’s Monthly Economic Activity Estimator (EMAE) fell by 13.2 percent year-on-year in July, according to figures from National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) released on September 28. The drop was slightly less than analysts expected.
  • On September 30, the state-run Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) reported Brazil’s unemployment rate rose to 13.8 percent in Q2 2020. Analysts had expected a rate of 13.7 percent.​​​​​
  • Unemployment in Chile fell to 12.9 percent in August, although it still remains at the highest levels in over a decade. Unemployment for the same period last year was 5.3 percent.
  • Moody’s lowered Bolivia’s sovereign debt rating from B1 to B2, citing a deterioration in the country’s fiscal and foreign exchange reserves and lowered economic growth prospects. 
  • Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said that approximately 30 percent of those employed in the tourism sector had lost their jobs while 36 percent had been furloughed.

Economic relief

  • Colombian President Iván Duque announced that the tourism sector would continue to benefit from a reduction in the VAT tax from 19 percent to 5 percent until next year. However, if extended further, such reforms will need Congressional approval. 
  • Duque stated that the third value-added-tax free day would be held during last two months of 2020, after it was postponed from September 19.
  • Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced $2 billion in subsidies to create one million new jobs and recover those lost during the country’s lockdown measures. The new plan provides salary assistance for private businesses resuming operations and incentives for new hires.

Multilateral Assistance and Coordination

  • During a panel held on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado proposed the creation of the Fund to Alleviate COVID-19 Economics (FACE) to provide developing countries with additional funds to cope with the pandemic’s socioeconomic effects. This half a trillion dollar-fund would be financed with 0.7 percent of the GDP of the world’s biggest and strongest economies (those that account for 80% of global GDP). The funds would be channeled by one or several multilateral development banks.
  • The IMF approved an increase in Colombia’s Flexible Line of Credit from $10.8 billion to $17.2 billion after the organization lowered its forecast for the Colombian economy, predicting a 8.2 percent recession.
  • The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved loans of $40 million for the Bahamas and $30 million to Saint Lucia to support the countries’ economic recoveries.
  • A $750 million IDB loan to Brazil will strengthen credit lines for more than 11,000 micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises to alleviate capital scarcity and promote productive investment recovery.

Health + innovation

  • While it seems that the spike in Phase III clinical trial kickoffs has passed, a number of Latin American countries continue to announce the start or planned start of new COVID-19 trials.
    • On September 24, the Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen announced that it would begin Phase III clinical trials in Argentina in October. The trials were approved by the National Administration of Medicines and Medical Technology on September 11.
  • The COVID-19 Panama Vaccine Research Consortium plans to begin clinical trials of the German CureVac vaccine on October 1. The Clover vaccine will also begin clinical trials in Panama. Both vaccines are part of the COVAX mechanism promoted by the WHO.
  • In addition to the few new fourth quarter vaccine clinical trials kicking off, Latin America is beginning to explore more innovative health solutions to the COVID-19 virus.
    • The University of Buenos Aires and the Hospital de Clinicas are working on a nasal spray that would slow down the entry of COVID-19 into the body and prevent the spread of the disease. Researchers are testing three forms of the nasal spray using a chemical compound that is more than 600 years old.
    • Colombia’s BioXcellerator’s epidemiological doctor, Santiago Saldarriaga Gomez, announced that clinical trials using stem cells for COVID-19 patients in critical condition will be carried out in Colombia for the first time. The study will begin in October and already has Invima regulatory approval.
  • In recent weeks, many Latin American countries have refocused their attention from clinical trials to acquiring a vaccine once one is available.
    • On September 22, President Piñera announced that Chile had signed new agreements with COVAX and Pfizer-BioNTech to acquire millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The president hopes to vaccinate over 80 percent of the population with the first 5 million vaccines going to health workers, those over 65, chronically ill and people living in closed centers.
    • On October 9, Peru will pay $20 million to the COVAX Facility to acquire COVID-19 vaccines. Peru is also in negotiations with Pfizer to acquire 9.9 million doses of its vaccine. Sanofi Pasteur will offer Peru its COVID-19 vaccine through Rappi.
    • The governor of the state of Sao Paulo announced on September 23 that the government will begin to immunize its population with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December, pending regulatory approval. The state is expected to receive five million doses of the vaccine in October, with another 55 million arriving by the end of February.

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 1,500 clinical trials. Because science is how we get back to normal. Learn more.

Country Focus

  • Caribbean: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman Ralph Gonsalves called for collaboration among neighbors to address the COVID-19 pandemic during the UN General Assembly. Similar calls were made by the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Mexico: Mexico has the highest number of deaths among healthcare workers according to a report from Amnesty International and British Magazine The Lancet. Healthcare workers in Mexico are particularly vulnerable due to a lack of personal protective equipment. The Mexican government disputes the report.
  • Bolivia: Internal divisions in Bolivia’s interim government led to the dismissal of the country’s economy minister and two other cabinet ministers, fueling uncertainty about an economic recovery in the country.
  • Venezuela: Since September 27, more than 100 protests have erupted in Venezuela, with citizens demanding an end to shortages of electricity, water, fuel, food, and household supplies.

By the numbers (continued)

  • Cases by country (continued): Ecuador (135,749), Bolivia (133,641), Dominican Republic (111,900), Panama (111,853), Guatemala (90,968), Honduras (76,098), Costa Rica (74,604), Source: worldmeters.info
  • Prevalence rate (continued): Colombia (16,153), Costa Rica (14,612), Bolivia (11,496), Dominican Republic (10,290), Bahamas (10,204), Saint Martin (9,855), Ecuador (7,666), Source: worldmeters.info
  • Deaths (continued): Ecuador (11,312), Bolivia (7,931), Guatemala (3,238), Panama (2,364), Honduras (2,323), Dominican Republic (2,101), Costa Rica (880), El Salvador (843), Paraguay (841), Venezuela (621), Source: worldmeters.info

Quick take