- 1. What is your interest in this project?
I joined this project because I was interested in learning more about how other countries, specifically in South America, are dealing with this global epidemic. My interest in the country’s perspective is to both publish our findings and research in scholarly publications and present at future conferences. I feel this project offers a unique contribution as many of us are focusing on our city, county, state or even the U.S. as a whole versus the global scene. I am in hopes that our research with this project will lead to future collaborations with our Latin American and Caribbean region.
I visited South America in April 2009, eleven years ago this month, for my international policy trip requirement in my doctorate. I had to select between China and Argentina, and I selected Argentina. I immediately fell in love with the country — its customs, its food, the people, and learned much about their history, legalities, and policies. This country is in the top five of those places I would consider permanently residing in at some point. While I regret I did not go to Uruguay and Chile while I was there, I hope to visit both of those in the future.
- 2. What have you noticed since the first week you began monitoring and until now?
I began monitoring and aggregating information on all three countries on March 10. Much of the information was similar to that which Marcelo reported with his monitoring; however much less than I expected. Below is a short summary for each country:
Argentina by far had much more news about the government beginning to take measures to halt the spread of coronavirus. They began to ban entry of non-residents arriving from coronavirus-hit countries, and suspended processing of applications for admission as a temporary resident for foreigners from countries with advanced coronavirus. They began a mandatory quarantine on March 19. In the later weeks of March, the recession began to deepen in the country and there were concerns about firms going bankrupt and the challenges the poorest would face. The government blocked the cutting of utilities for three months and the mandatory quarantine was extended through April 12.
I was very impressed with the Chilean government and its action plan for COVID-19. This site includes everything from official figures, quarantines, self-care, protocols, news and frequent questions of which I will highlight a few aspects. A state of catastrophe was declared on March 19 with a curfew in place to reduce contact. There are many quarantines and sanitary controls in place to help the spread of the virus. There is an economic emergency plan in place to allocate $11 million to help protect employees and support workers. Interestingly, President Sebastian Pinera was under a lot of pressure to announce the national quarantine and follow their neighbor, Argentina. As of April 1, the government maintained curfew in six districts of the Metropolitan region.
There has been much less information I have found about Uruguay. Half of their initial cases (44) traced to a single event — one guest that had just returned from Spain with a fever attended this wedding. Uruguay declared its health emergency and first measures earlier on March 13. They closed their borders for 30 days on March 13. Their first death was reported at the end of March.
- 3. What situation are you monitoring the most?
On April 6, the Argentine government postponed local debt payments due in dollars until the end of the year. Argentina has had an unstable debt situation for some time and the pandemic has not helped. There were already projections for the third year of recession before the virus arrives for the second-largest nation in South America. It is much deeper and worse now with the virus impact. On April 8, the Chilean government announced the second state of the economic emergency plan focusing on health, life, income, and jobs. I’m curious to the details of funding to support jobs and families. Additionally, how will businesses and banks be impacted? As for Uruguay, being such a small country, they are used to relying on themselves. A 20% cut will be applied to wages of the president, ministers, legislators, and directors to go to the “Coronavirus Fund.” They created their own Coronavirus test and have sequenced the coronavirus genome from patients at the end of March to understand the tracking of the spread of the virus.
- 4. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Chile appears to be the most prepared of all three countries however, not everyone is happy with the current President. Uruguay voted to delay gubernatorial and legislative elections that were slated for May. The elections involved races for executive and legislative branches of Uruguay’s 19 provinces.