Latin American economies opening back up despite expert warnings

By September 28, 2020

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra said Friday that the Andean country will resume with a gradual reopening of the economy in October. Peru will begin accepting international flights again and allow 50 percent capacity in restaurants, although bars and movie theaters will stay closed.

This is just the latest case of a Latin American country announcing reopening plans despite expert warnings that countries in the region are doing so too soon.

The World Health Organization’s Regional Director Carissa Etienne said recently that governments in Latin America should be careful with their reopening strategies.

“Although the entire world is racing to develop new tools to prevent and cure COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine that can be manufactured and delivered at scale is not around the corner,” Etienne said in a virtual briefing. “We must be clear that opening up too early gives this virus more room to spread and puts our populations at greater risk. Look no further than Europe.” 

Latin America has been the hardest hit region in the world with nearly 9 million infections and nearly 350,000 deaths from COVID-19. Overall cases and deaths are rising in Argentina and Costa Rica, while numbers are also climbing in parts of Mexico, Ecuador, and elsewhere in the region.

Reopenings this month included the arrival of international flights again to Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Panama is planning to allow international flights again in October.

Starting next month, Peru will allow for international flights in and out of its airports to and from select countries in South America. Cases and deaths in Peru have been on the decline after an August spike in which seven of every 10 Peruvians polled said they knew of someone who died of COVID-19.

As of September, the country has the highest rate of deaths in the world with 91 per 100,000 people. Mexico holds the grim distinction this month of having the highest death rate in relation to cases, as 10.7 percent of those with reported cases have died.

Latin American economies were supposed to continue growing in 2020 after years of sustained success and it’s clear why governments are eager to reopen. The region’s economy is now supposed to shrink considerably because of the virus, as economic experts have estimated the collective GDP will contract by more than 7 percent.