The first Coronavirus case in South America was confirmed on Feb. 26 by the Brazilian government, since then most countries have taken measures to halt the further spread of the virus. However, the Chilean governments handling of the situation has been highly criticized for not being harsh enough in comparison to its neighboring countries. Argentina and Peru have effectively closed their countries from the outside world, while Bolivia attempts to prevent their low numbers from rising.
With as good as every country on the globe suffering from outbreaks of the coronavirus, governments are all implementing what they consider to be the best way to battle the virus. In South America, Brazil leads in the continent with 3,477 confirmed cases as president Jair Bolsonaro considers the virus to be a hype. In Chile, where only parts of the countries have been put in quarantine, there are already 1,909 cases.
Chile’s neighbors haven’t reached the same numbers, due to their more restrictive methods and their early adoption of said restrictions. Thanks to these actions, Peru and Argentina have a third of Chile’s numbers while also having nearly double the population. Bolivia, which has a little less population than Chile is still in the double digits.
As of writing, Argentina has 690 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17 deaths. On Mar. 7, they had their first death, which also marked the first coronavirus death in Latin America. A week later the country reached 56 confirmed cases, which caused the newly appointed president Alberto Fernández to declare a nationwide voluntary quarantine, urging those who can work from home to do so and for people to stay home as much as possible.
On Mar. 20, the quarantine became mandatory, after Argentinians defied his restrictions and for example headed en masse to the beach. In relation to the quarantine, President Alberto Fernández said “We’ll be completely unflexible”. The country canceled all flights coming in from any affected area while the government also gave special permits to those infected by the virus so that they can get time off work.
The armed forces have also been assisting by lending their facilities and assigning workers to help create antibacterial gel and masks. All medical centers and personnel have been assigned to help civilian doctors fight against the pandemic.
The government also launched an app that helps citizens identify if they have the virus and allows them to get in contact with the proper authorities. Lastly, the president closed the borders and to shut down the country until Mar. 31, with a possibility of extending until April.
The country reported 635 confirmed cases and 11 deaths. It was the first country in the region to declare a state of emergency and quarantine the country for 14 days.
President Martín Vizcarra closed down the entire frontier and postponed the school year to a later date. He also said that the government would be paying 380 soles (US$105) to every family that earns money from informal jobs, which is about 70% of the Peruvian population. The objective is to pay them for the money that they would otherwise lose during the quarantine.
The government will allocate 200 million soles (US$57 million) to the country’s 1,874 municipalities to buy vital items for the economically most vulnerable citizens. Companies will receive subsidies, so they keep paying workers while suspending business.
The quarantine was set to end during March but the president had to extend it for 13 days. This measure also means a curfew, including prison for those who break it. President Vizcarra said 21,074 Peruvians have been detained for breach of quarantine and urged the rest to stay home.
With 74 confirmed cases and no reported deaths, Bolivia has still the least cases. The government imposed a quarantine on Mar. 21, with only one person per household allowed to do some shopping. Stores are well stocked but only open until midday.
The country also closed its borders and air space, only allowing humanitarian missions to enter. And presidential elections were postponed from May 3 to an unspecified date between July 7 and Sep. 6, depending on the scenario at that time.
However, most Bolivians aren’t respecting the quarantine, with the Public Works Ministry saying, “if Bolivians don’t take this seriously, we won’t die because of the virus, we will die of stupidity.” The government is mulling to declare a state of exception and deploy the military to force citizens to stay home.
Meanwhile, the police is patrolling the streets together with two people dressed as the coronavirus. These actors claim that they are looking to infect passersby. This initiative began in the busier sections of La Paz but is slowly being adopted by other cities, like Cochabamba.
Continuamos trabajando extremando nuestros esfuerzos para concientizar a la población sobre el riesgo del contagio del #coronavirus.
Por favor, #QuedateEnCasa
Video: @pagina_siete pic.twitter.com/J2cmjGZfko
— POLICIA BOLIVIANA (@Pol_Boliviana) March 25, 2020
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.