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Letter from… Bogotá

26 June 2020

By Nicolas Cuellar, Senior Director, SEC Newgate 

More than 90 days have passed since the National Government decreed mandatory preventive isolation (quarantine), which has been extended again until Wednesday July 15.

The focus of President Ivan Duque’s Government is to implement public policies that gradually reactivate the economy while protecting the health of Colombians. For example, several economic sectors have been enabled, under biosecurity protocols, to start operations. Over the coming few days, municipalities with low number of cases of COVID-19 can request the permission to carry out pilots for opening restaurants, entertainment venues and religious buildings.

Some of the measures being used to reactivate the economy have been widely criticized, such as the VAT-free day implemented last Friday, which generated several points of crowding in chain stores in different cities of the country.

Although this initiative generated positive numbers (sales of $5.4 billion, an increase of 242% in debit card payments and 346% in payments made with credit), it is also expected that, due to the crowds of people, the number of infections will shoot up in two weeks.

Meanwhile, yet another VAT free shopping day is being planned, and several unions have suggested that the Government should restrict some sales to virtual platforms only, as well as promoting early sales.

On the other hand, the most recent numbers related to the pandemic register a total of 73,572 infected cases and 2,491 deaths. Cases are doubling every 18 days.

At a general level, there is a perceived exhaustion on the part of citizens due to quarantine, while other voices continue to call for self-care and not to relax on prevention methods. Opinions around when the peak of the contagion may arrive are not unanimous and the options vary from July, through to August and even September. Putting this in to its terrifying context, the President of the Republic mentioned in his last intervention that Colombians must get used to the idea of celebrating Christmas with preventive measures in place.