LatAm Daily News Roundup: May 21st

Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update

Find out what's been happening in Latin America with our latest news update

Argentina’s health authorities have announced plans to launch a locally developed Covid-19 testing kit that could be available to test 10,000 citizens within the next 10 days. The kit, jointly developed by public and private sector researchers, is designed for outpatient use and can reportedly provide results in under two hours, Santiago Werbajh, an epidemiologist at the Pablo Cassara Foundation, was quoted by media as saying. The kit will have a price tag of around $8. The country has so far reported 403 deaths from the virus and more than 9,000 confirmed cases.

Brazil is now second only to the US in its daily death rate from Covid-19, and is the sixth country in terms of total death toll, which now stands at more than 18,000. If the current trend continues, Brazil’s daily death rate could surpass that of the US within a month, according to a report in Rio de Janeiro’s O Globo newspaper. “We have a great chance of that happening, because I don't know how long we will be able to maintain social isolation,” Brazilian virologist Amilcar Tanuri was quoted by the newspaper as saying. Tanuri said social distancing measures could be eased in some states, but the lack of detailed data and testing of the population make an assessment of risk difficult in order to begin lifting such measures. Despite the high death toll across the country, President Jair Bolsonaro has been pushing for businesses to reopen to limit further damage to the economy.

Colombia has grounded all international flights until the end of August, while domestic flights will not resume until at least July, depending on the evolution of the Covid-19 virus, the transport ministry has announced. The drastic measures mirror those enacted in Argentina, where international flights will not resume until September 1st, to stem the spread of the virus. Colombia’s national airline Avianca had earlier this month filed for Chapter 11 insolvency in the US, but had planned to continue flying while it carried out a corporate restructuring. Colombia’s President Iván Duque this week extended the country’s nationwide lockdown until the end of May. Colombia’s death toll from the virus is currently 630, with more than 17,000 confirmed cases.

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno has announced the closures of several state-owned companies and three embassies abroad as the country’s economy falters amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The measures are part of emergency powers granted to the government by congress to mitigate the economic crisis. The state-owned companies include the airline Tame, a railway company, the nation’s post office, and a media conglomerate. Ecuador will also close its embassies in Nicaragua, Iran and Malaysia, and shut six consulates. In addition to the closures to cut government expenditure, Moreno has also cut the price of fuel to reduce consumer spending, and pledged around $1 billion in aid to businesses impacted by the growing economic crisis.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has stated that he does not intend to nationalize the country’s electricity sector, following criticism from the private sector of his government’s move earlier this month to limit private participation in the renewable energy sector. The modification of regulations for the approval of renewables projects has been seen as a rolling back of the country’s 2013 energy reform, an initiative of the previous government, that opened up the country’s electricity and oil and gas sectors to more private investment. López Obrador defended the move as a way to guarantee electricity supply, maintain low prices for consumers, and avoid corrupt practices in state utility CFE. The country’s solar and wind power associations decried the move, and anticipated that the government will face litigation from companies that have signed contracts to build projects.
Peru’s Covid-19 death toll has reached 3,024, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases, as news media report that the country’s health sector is under serious strain. Hospital staff have been protesting in the streets against the lack of protective equipment, and who fear they are at a high risk of contagion during their working hours.  The death toll, which has tripled during the month of May, puts Peru second only behind Brazil in the number of fatalities in South America. Around 70% of the country’s cases are concentrated in the capital Lima and the nearby port of Callao, both of which are home to two-thirds of the country’s population. The country’s state of emergency as a result of the pandemic will continue until May 24th, having been extended by 15 days.


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