Aviso LatAm: COVID-19 September 10

What you should know

  • As of September 7, PAHO/WHO reported 7,797,853 COVID-19 cases (28 percent of the world) and 290,167 deaths (30 percent of the world) in Latin America and the Caribbean.​ ​​​​
  • The International Air Transport Association has called on governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to allow for a wider restart for aviation. Across the region, demand in Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPK) fell by 87.5 percent in July 2020 year-on-year.​​​​​ 
  • Millions of university students are dropping their studies due to the pandemic, a stunning reversal from an historic expansion in attendance.
  • Former President of Costa Rica and member of our Center’s Advisory Council, Laura Chinchilla, on how the region can unlock the necessary potential and resilience to build an upcoming “decade of opportunities.” More below.

By the numbers

  • Cases by country: Brazil (4,165,124) #3 worldwide, Peru (696,190) #5 worldwide, Colombia (679,513) #6 worldwide, Mexico (642,860) #7 worldwide, Argentina (500,034) #10 worldwide, Chile (425,541) #11 worldwide, [view full list]  
  • Prevalence rate (total cases per million people): Panama (22,740) #5 worldwide, Chile (22,225) #6 worldwide, Peru (21,060) #9 worldwide, Brazil (19,569) #11 worldwide, Colombia (13,328) #19 worldwide, Argentina (11,045) #24 worldwide, [view full list]    
  • Deaths – total reported in the region: Brazil (127,517) #2 worldwide, Mexico (68,484) #4 worldwide, Peru (30,123) #8 worldwide, Colombia (21,817) #11 worldwide, Chile (11,682) #14 worldwide, Ecuador (10,627) #15 worldwide, Argentina (10,457) #16 worldwide, [view full list]  

Quarantine + reopening plans

With cases continuing to increase, some governments have maintained or tightened lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

  • On September 7, hundreds of taxi and bus drivers took to the streets in the main cities of Honduras, demanding the opportunity to return to work or receive subsidies. Most of the drivers have been out of work for six months due to the quarantine in force since March 12, and now extended until September 13.​​​​​ 
  • Cuban authorities ordered another 15-day lockdown on September 1 to control the low-level but persistent increase of COVID-19 cases in the country’s capital, including two new community transmission hotspots.  
  • Argentina has been under lockdown since March 20, though cases have spiked in recent weeks. Some areas of the country, including the city of Buenos Aires, remain under varying levels of quarantine. Some activities, like exercise and outdoor restaurant dining, recently resumed.

Other countries have taken steps to reopen their economies.

  • On September 9, Costa Rica entered the second phase of its economic reopening plan, in which most businesses will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. The Ministry of Health is requiring certain businesses such as bars and casinos to remain closed due to their high risk of contagion levels.
  • On September 7, Panama opened the following economic sectors: construction and related activities (engineers, architects, project managers, contractors, moving services), free trade zones, private docks and sports fishing, tailor shops, shoe shops, and carwashes. 
  • The reopening of restaurants in Bogotá began on September 3 under the A Cielo Abierto program, which includes the reopening of establishments from Thursday to Sunday. According to the Ministry of Economic Development, sales of restaurants that reopened have increased between 15 and 50 percent, depending on location and type of food served.

International travel restrictions

  • Argentina is now the region’s largest market where aviation remains suspended.
  • International airlines have resumed operations to Chile, but if demand continues to be depressed, capacity might once again be removed.
  • Bolivia has lifted border restrictions and will permit international flights to and from Brazil, Europe, Uruguay and the United States.
  • Panama has reopened commercial flights for citizens and residents with some restrictions. Limited humanitarian flights as well as those for medical goods and appliances are also currently allowed; the airport remains closed to the general public.

Economies in focus

Economic impact 

  • Cuba, according to a report published on September 10, is set to devalue the peso for the first time since the revolution and will also eliminate the convertible peso due to a number of factors, including COVID-19 fallout. 
  • Inflation has been contained at 2.4 percent in Brazil and is slowing in most of the region — even in Argentina, where it remains close to 40 percent a year.
  • In Mexico, however, inflation has accelerated since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Consumer prices rose 4.05 percent in August year-on-year, nearly twice as much as the 2.15 percent rate recorded in April and above the Central Bank’s target limit for the first time in 15 months. Its economy is expected to shrink about 10 percent this year.
  • Belize’s economy declined by 23.3 percent between April and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Similarly, the Dominican Republic Central Bank reports that GDP shrank by 8.5 percent between January and June 2020 compared to the first half of 2019. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the economy was growing at about 5 percent.
  • Peru’s economy contracted by 32 percent during the April to June period compared with a year earlier.
  • Chile posted a trade surplus of $904 million in August, with its Central Bank estimating a contraction of 5 percent this year due to the pandemic.
  • Ecuador leads the region in unemployment, with 85 percent of Ecuadorans either unemployed or in precarious jobs. The country’s GDP will likely contract 8.2 percent this year.  
  • In an effort to anchor inflation expectations, Uruguay’s central bank re-introduced reference interest rate regimes (discontinued in 2013), instead of monetary aggregates, to guide monetary policy. Annual inflation was running at 9.79 percent in August, with the bank’s target range at 3-7 percent for the next two years.

Economic relief

  • The UN and humanitarian partners released a Tri-National Action Plan to support government responses to the urgent needs in the border area between Colombia, Peru and Brazil – home to nearly 209,000 people, of which 57 percent are indigenous. This triple border region is currently witnessing the highest COVID-19 mortality rates per 100,000 people in the world.

For the Latest Global Economy News: The Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program produces a weekly, invitation-only financial note. If you would like to join the list, send an email to request an invitation.

Health + innovation

  • Many countries in Latin America, including BrazilCubaMexicoPeru, and Venezuela, have already signed agreements with the Russian government to test and produce the Russia COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. The vaccine’s efficacy has been doubted by international health organizations and western nations, but Latin America has already pursued the vaccine as a possible way out for the declining COVID-19 situation.
  • In Brazil, according to O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, the Ministry of Health has distributed less than one third of the 22.9 million availableRT-PCR test kits due to a shortage of supplies needed to administer tests.
  • Peru is now slated to participate infoursets of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, with the German lab CureVac the most recently approved to carry out Phase II trials in the country.
  • Costa Rica will begin testing its COVID-19 equine antibodytreatmentin 26 human patients this week.
  • Mexico has the highest death rate among healthcare workersin the world according to a report by Amnesty International. Mexico reports 1,320 deaths from COVID-19 among medical personnel, while the next closest, the United States, counts 1,077.
  • AstraZeneca paused trials for its coronavirus vaccine, developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford, after a volunteer fell ill with an unexplained illness. Argentina and Mexico previously agreed to produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for most of Latin America. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assures Mexico has “other options” for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

A message from PhRMA: To advance COVID-19 treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible, biopharmaceutical companies are launching partnerships and large-scale initiatives to accelerate the R&D process. More on how COVID-19 is changing biomedical R&D here.

Country Focus

  • Argentina: In Buenos Aires, calls to an emergency domestic abuse hotline spiked 48 percent from March through June year-on-year. For women and children around the globe, especially in Latin America, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the threat of domestic violence. ​​​​​
  • Brazil: Former President Lula da Silva accused President Bolsonaro of turning the pandemic into a “weapon of mass destruction.” Through a video shared on social media, da Silva condemned Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 response, blaming him for the loss of almost 130,000 lives. ​​​​
  • Mexico: Mexico reported excess deaths of 122,765 from March to August, a 59 percent increase from what was expected amid the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 67,000 coronavirus-related fatalities.

By the numbers (continued)

  • Cases by country (continued): Bolivia (122,308), Ecuador (112,166), Dominican Republic (100,937), Panama (98,407), Guatemala (78,721), Honduras (65,218), Venezuela (55,563), Costa Rica (49,897), El Salvador (26,602), Source:  worldometers.info
  • Prevalence rate (continued): Bolivia (10,451), Costa Rica (9,778), Domincan Republic (9,287), Suriname (7,520), Bahamas (6,744), Honduras (6,565), Ecuador (6,340), Saitn Martin (6,162) Mexico (4,976), Guatemala (4,379), El Salvador (4,097), Sourceworldometers.info
  • Deaths (continued): Bolivia (7,097), Guatemala (2,890), Panama (2,107), Honduras (2,034), Dominican Republic (1,914), El Salvador (770), Costa Rica (531), Paraguay (463), Venezuela (444), Nicaragua (144), Cuba (104), Bahamas (63), Uruguay (45) Source:  worldometers.info

Quick take

Your COVID-19 Aviso

“Latin America faces the greatest challenge in at least one generation: a health, economic, and social crisis of immense proportions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis threatens to reverse important achievements in economic and human development and deepen gaps and vulnerabilities that existed before the pandemic. Past shocks have resulted in “lost decades” for us, but history does not have to repeat itself. With visionary leadership and a renewed commitment for fruitful dialogue, cooperation, and agreement, the region can unlock the necessary potential and resilience to build an upcoming “decade of opportunities” that lays the foundations for dynamic, inclusive, green, and intelligent development trajectory.”

-Laura Chinchilla, ​​​​Former President of Costa Rica and Member of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Advisory Council