Colombia acted swiftly to enact a National Health Emergency on March 20 when the country had just over 100 coronavirus cases. Now, two months later, Obligatory Preventine Isolation is still in effect, eased for certain sectors to resume productivity, yet for the majority of the workforce, especially informal sectors, Decree 457 shows no sign of lifting, even as the country has 16,295 confirmed cases of the disease with 3903 recovered; and numbers significantly lower than a host of nations that have embarked this week on the difficult task of reopening.
With the nation’s economy at standstill, a decision to extend quarantine past May 25, date given as the deadline for the third extension (April 13 – 27, April 27 – May 11, May 11 – May 25), would deal another severe blow to service and cultural industries, heavily dependent on independent contractors and creatives.
Beyond empty stages, concert halls, restaurants and cafeterias, are larger venues, including museums and public libraries all closed “until further notice.” And “further notice” is always announced one week before an extension to quarantine expires. On Monday, President Iván Duque continued to emphasize the need for citizens to exercise self-discipline and strict hygiene as daily cases increased by 721, with Bogotá accounting for 197 infections and at the epicenter of COVID-19.
The department of Amazonas registered 176 new cases followed by Cartagena with 132. According to the Ministry of Health, there are 71 clusters of the disease across the country from the Amazon to La Guajira peninsula, Eastern Plains, Magdalena basin, Andes and coffee region. An estimated 202,000 PCR tests have been processed by the National Institute of Health since the first confirmed case in the country was imported from Italy.
The country’s death toll registered 18 additional fatalities on Monday, putting the new total at 592, the majority of whom were afflicted with respiratory illnesses, cancer, kidney failure, diabetes and dementia. Deaths continue to be registered in Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Leticia and Santa Marta.
As the government continues to enforce a heath emergency to save lives with a pandemic that shows no signs of abating worldwide, the inevitable question is how much the Colombian economy is willing to lose by keeping small and medium-sized businesses closed.
Despite 1.1% GDP growth in the first 3 months of 2020 of a projected 3.6% for the year, mining, manufacturing, construction and culture recorded negative growth even before the impact of the quarantine, revealing that if there some degree of “recovery,” many companies will not see it before next year and many others already closing down operations.
“I predict that 70% of the restaurants in Bogotá which are my clients will not make it after the lockdown,” remarked a leading wine and specialty foods supplier who asked to remain anonymous. A report released Monday by the country’s Federation of Development – Fedesarollo – puts GDP for 2020 between in negative territory, ranging -2.6% to -4.8%, and “conservative estimate.”