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The nations of Central America have taken bold measures to fight the global Covid-19 pandemic. El Salvador has closed its borders. Guatemala has canceled all religious activities that are related to Holy Week. Panama has suspended all flights from Europe and Asia, while Costa Rica has counseled its citizens to self-quarantine in an effort to stifle the spread of the coronavirus in Central America.
El Salvador restricts the movement of its citizens
On the evening of Saturday, March 13, 2020, the Congress of El Salvador placed restrictions on individuals’ rights of movement, as well as the right of assembly for groups. Although no case of the coronavirus has been registered in the country thus far, the government of President Nayib Bukele has shut down El Salvador’s borders.
As the situation currently stands, the nation’s immigration authorities may prevent foreign nationals from entering the territory of the country for a period of 30 days.
Any person that enters El Salvador from abroad must be detained in quarantine for 30 days in facilities that have been put into place by the Bukele administration.
Although the right of groups to gather has been limited, the country’s government has enacted a provision that gives El Salvador’s national public health officials the power to authorize religious, cultural, or other meetings that “do not jeopardize” the health and welfare of the nation’s citizens.
In addition to restricting the movement of individuals and groups, the government of El Salvador will establish a specialized temporary hospital to fight the coronavirus in Central America. The facility will be set up at the International Fair and Convention Center (CIFCO) in the capital city of San Salvador.
Guatemala curtails Easter activities to fight the coronavirus in Central America
President Alejandro Giammettei of Guatemala has introduced a measure that prohibits groups of more than one hundred people from gathering, starting immediately. This rule will be in effect on Easter and throughout Holy Week.
As a preventative measure to abate the spread of the coronavirus in Central America, Giammettei’s government has also established a toll-free hotline that citizens of the country can call for assistance if they have exhibited any symptoms related to the disease.
Additionally, the government has imposed a ban on foreign flights from entering Guatemala beginning at midnight on Monday, March 16, 2020.
Honduras maintains a state of alert
The National Risk Management System (Sinager) of Honduras has declared a 14-day state of alert at the request of the country’s Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Honduras has reported three diagnosed cases of the disease, thus far.
A spokesperson for the Health Ministry was quoted as saying that “With this measure, we are confident that we will be able to prevent the rapid spread of the virus, contrary to other countries around the world that have not taken these important actions for containment and isolation at the outset.”
The state of alert proclaimed by the government of Honduras has empowered Sinager to set up special areas at which those suspected as being infected with COVID-19 can receive treatment. In addition to this, peripheral public health units will also be mobilized to provide specialized and professional care.
Finally, Honduras has issued a decree that prohibits events of more than 50 people from taking place. Those in violation of this order risk the imposition of civil and criminal penalties.
Costa Rica grants a three-month tax payment moratorium
A three-month moratorium on the payment of value-added taxes, corporate income taxes, and customs duties are the first financial measures announced by the government of Costa Rica in the face of the pandemic. The national government will also make low-interest loans available to businesses in the heavily affected tourism sector of the economy.
“The Covid-19 virus is testing us as a society. That is why we want to give Costa Ricans the absolute certainty that, as an economic team, we will use all the tools available at our disposal to provide relief to the cash flow of households and businesses, prevent the destruction of employment and ensure the availability of resources for optimal health care for people,” explained María del Pilar Garrido Gonzalo, head of the country’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy.
The representative of Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado, went on to further state that “the objective of this first phase of measures of care and economic support is to provide relief to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and to protect the workers who are affected by the impact of Covid-19”.
Similarly, by guideline, the President of the Republic shall instruct state commercial banks to repay debtor claims, including the possible implementation of a moratorium on the payment of loan principal and/or interest for three months in the most affected sectors.
More measures will be announced in the coming days to protect Costa Ricans’ incomes and jobs so that they will not be disproportionately affected and will be able to avoid the ongoing negative effects of the crisis.
Additionally, the Costa Rican government will seek to ensure that the liquidity of the nation’s financial sector will continue to provide adequate support to the economy.
Panama suspends flights to and from Europe and Asia
President Laurentino Cortizo has ordered that all flights from Europe and Asia be suspended. “I repeat that I will take whatever action I have to take for Panama’s sake,” he recently stated. Panama, much like the other countries that are battling against the coronavirus in Central America, has declared a national state of emergency.
On Friday, Executive Decree No. 472 of 13 March 2020 was published in the nation’s Official Gazette, which enumerates health initiatives that will be undertaken. The decree provides for the temporary suspension of cruise ships, mini cruise ships, large ships, international passenger transport such as yachts, mega yachts, and yachts for commercial use or any other maritime vessel in the port of the country. Authorities are also asking Panamanian citizens to stay at home.
Finally, Panama’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, for its part, is in the process of reviewing the estimated figures for the gross domestic product for 2019 in order to determine if there is any possibility of using the Panama Savings Fund as part of the relief measures that will be taken.
Nicaragua takes no preventive measures against the coronavirus in Central America and calls for a mass demonstration of solidarity
Unlike the rest of Central America, the Government of Nicaragua has not declared an emergency and has made it clear that it “has not established nor will it establish any quarantines” to curb the pandemic.
Moreover, defying medical recommendations to avoid mass activities, the first lady and vice president of the country, Rosario Murillo, held a “Love in the Times of Covid-19” march, in which members of the Sandinista FMLN party participated.
Nicaraguan health authorities have not reported any suspected cases of coronavirus as of Saturday, March 14, 2020, but amid rumors and panic purchases of masks, gel alcohol, and liquid soap, doctors warn that the country is not prepared to confront the Covid-19 virus and that the short-term future may be “terrifying.”
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