What you should know
- New case and fatality rates have been slowing in Latin America. Of the ten most populous countries in the region, only Argentina has seen a sustained rise in infections and deaths in recent weeks.
- The 2020 Latin American Economic Outlook (LEO) forecasts that 2.7 million companies are likely to shut down, resulting in the loss of 8.5 million jobs.
- ECLAC anticipates a 9 percent drop in the region’s GDP in 2020, the worst drop in over a century. Other projections: unemployment will reach 14 percent and 38 percent of the population will fall into poverty this year.
By the numbers
- Cases by country: Brazil (4,970,953) #3 worldwide, Colombia (869,808) #5 worldwide, Peru (832,929) #7 worldwide, Argentina (824,468) #8 worldwide, Mexico (794,608) #9 worldwide, Chile (473,306) #14 worldwide
- Prevalence rate (total cases per million people): Aruba (38,433) #3 worldwide, Panama (26,913) #7 worldwide, Peru (25,169) #9 worldwide, Chile (24,703) #10 worldwide, Brazil (23,342) #11 worldwide, Argentina (18,198) #18 worldwide
- Deaths – total reported in the region: Brazil (147,571) #2 worldwide, Mexico (82,348) #4 worldwide, Peru (32,914) #7 worldwide, Colombia (27,017) #11 worldwide, Argentina (21,827) #13 worldwide, Chile (13,070) #15 worldwide
Quarantine + reopening plans
A recent slowdown in new COVID-19 infections and deaths is leading some countries to continue taking steps to reopen their economies.
- Over the weekend, families crowded Guatemalan streets without restrictions – the first time since March. President Alejandro Giammattei called upon citizens to take precautions during a televised address announcing his recovery from COVID-19.
- Beginning October 9, bars will be permitted to reopen in Costa Rica. But tables will be limited to four people and dancing will be prohibited.
- On October 5, Paraguay eliminated its phased reopening plan, choosing to reopen the country with certain restrictions. The new plan, which begins with a 15-day trial period, will lift some restrictions on social activities, including allowing gatherings of less than 30 people.
Other countries have maintained or tightened lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
- Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the island-wide curfew will begin at 3 pm rather than 8 pm and remain in force until October 20. The surge in COVID-19 cases likely began in early August during independence celebrations.
- Manaus, Brazil’s largest Amazonian city, imposed a 30-day ban on social gatherings and closed bars and river beaches amid an increase in COVID-19 cases, challenging the theory the city had reached herd immunity.
- Mexican Health Director Raúl Cortés Alcalá highlighted that, if necessary, Mexico would once again limit social and economic activities. The traffic light system governing state reopening policies will be updated on October 11.
International travel restrictions
- On October 3, Costa Rican Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura announced that borders will open to all US states starting November 1. Previously, Costa Rica only admitted US tourists from a shortlist of states.
- Honduras’ National Institute of Migration announced that land borders will reopen with Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador to official visits, business, and tourism beginning sometime between October 9 and 12. She expects international travel will begin between October 18 and 27.
- Brazilian authorities announced a 30-day extension of land and water border closures, although the order does not apply to the border cities of Foz do Yguazú (Brasil), or Cuidad del Este (Paraguay). Similarly, the order will not affect the possible reopening of the Friendship Bridge between Paraguay and Brazil scheduled to occur before October 15.
- Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the US-Mexican land border will remain closed until the border states are declared low risk per Mexico’s epidemiological traffic light system.
Economies in focus
- Chile’s unemployment rate reached 12.9 percent in the third trimester; 5.3 percent higher than last year.
- Colombia’s Housing Ministry reported all-time highs in home sales. In Bogota, September housing sales increased by 58 percent compared to the previous year. The jump is in part attributable to the 200,000 government subsidies for new home buyers offered as part of the government’s COVID-19 response.
- An IMF mission to Brazil concluded that the government’s emergency aid program helped avert a deeper economic downturn, but that country’s economy faces exceptionally high and multifaceted risks.
- The Uruguayan government provided $7 million in funding for firms that reinstate workers or contract new employees in July and August, benefitting 37,402 people.
- The International Labour Organization says 34 million people in Latin America have already lost their jobs. Only 12 percent of workers in the region are entitled to unemployment payments, compared to 44 percent in North America and Europe.
- World Bank President David Malpass stated that some developing countries will be unable to repay the debt they have taken on to help survive the pandemic. Malpass called upon private banks and investment funds to provide more support, in addition to encouraging investors to provide debt relief or cancellation.
- On October 7, the IMF improved its forecast for the Mexican economy but urged the government to implement fiscal and monetary stimuli in the short term to limit the effects of the pandemic. Mexico’s fiscal support is less than 1 percent of the country’s GDP, much below the G20 average of 3 percent.
- On October 5, Mexican President Andrés López Obrador presented a largely privately-financed $13.8 billion infrastructure investment plan to restart the country’s economy. The plan includes 39 projects in the communications, transportation, energy, water, and environmental sectors.
Health + innovation
- New case and fatality rates have been slowing in Latin America. In Brazil, the number of COVID-19 deaths fell 23 percent in September after fatalities fell 12 percent in August. In Peru, deaths fell 63 percent in September from August, the lowest number of fatalities since the outbreak of the pandemic in March.
- Southern Chile is experiencing a new and rare strain of the COVID-19 virus that is spreading even more rapidly between people. A new strain could complicate vaccine and treatment challenges that Latin America is already facing.
- Latin American countries are still working to increase clinical trials and increase access to a possible vaccine as soon as one becomes available. Some countries are also adjusting their timelines for distribution as we move into the fourth quarter of 2020.
- On September 30, Chile’s Ministry of Health announced that it had authorized the start of two clinical studies of two COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac Biotech and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Each trial will include 3,000 individuals. AstraZeneca’s vaccine trials are still waiting approval by the Chilean government.
- On October 1, Costa Rica signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech to acquire 3 million vaccines, covering over 50 percent of its total population.
- On October 2, Colombia’s Minister of Health announced that the country paid $106 million to the WHO COVAX mechanism that will ensure access to about 10 million doses of a vaccine. Those with pre-existing conditions, health workers, and people over the age of 60 will be the first to receive a vaccine.
- The Peruvian government announced that at least 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in the country between December and January, as part of the first batch purchased from Pfizer.
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- Costa Rica: On October 5, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado announced he will withdraw a proposal seeking an additional $1.75 billion from the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility. Despite the announcement, protests have continued amid general unrest over the administration’s handling of the economy.
- Ecuador: On October 4, President Lenin Moreno announced the government had received $2 billion from the IMF as part of a $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility loan and designated the funds for small and medium-sized businesses, child education centers, local governments, recently unemployed workers, tax credits for retirees, and loans for the reactivation of businesses. Over the next three months, Ecuador will receive $7.2 billion in loans to cover public spending from the IMF, the World Bank, IDB, CAF, and Chinese banks. Ecuador’s economy has been battered by COVID-19 restrictions and a severe drop in oil prices.
- Guatemala: Guatemalan authorities have detained and deported 3,500 Honduran migrants traveling north after President Alejandro Giammattei issued a decree to stop the migrants citing the caravan’s COVID-19 contagion risk. This was the first large caravan to travel north since the start of the pandemic.
By the numbers (continued)
- Cases by country (continued): Ecuador (142,056), Bolivia, (137,468), Panama (116,602), Dominican Republic (115,371), Guatemala (94,870), Costa Rica (82,142), Honduras (80,662), Source: worldmeters.info
- Prevalence rate (continued): Colombia (17,046), Costa Rica (16,086), Bolivia (11,734), Bahamas (11,564), Saint Martin (10,608), Dominican Republic (10,607), Suriname (8,443), Source: worldmeters.info
- Deaths (continued): Ecuador (11,702), Bolivia (8,156), Guatemala (3,310), Honduras (2,447), Dominican Republic (2,149), Costa Rica (1,004), Paraguay (966), El Salvador (873), Source: worldmeters.info