Coronavirus: Brazilian Congress almost empty
Coronavirus: Brazilian Congress almost empty. Photo: Marcelo Camargo / Agência Brasil

Land borders closed around Brazil, and other news on how Latin America is coping with the virus

Follow the main news about COVID-19 and its impacts in the region

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Everyday we look for the main impacts of coronavirus in the largest markets of Latin American, in addition to the pandemic numbers as they are updated by health authorities.

Updated on 15h30 p.m. Thursday (19th)

Thursday, March 19th

Brazil closes land borders with eight neighboring countries

Brazil closed its land borders with 8 neighboring countries and territories in South America this Thursday (19), in yet another measure to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The federal ordinance applies to highways and other land crossings, but not to airports.

Foreigners who are in these neighboring countries will not be able to enter Brazil, but Brazilian citizens will be allowed in. Cargoes may also continue to enter Brazil, as well as humanitarian aid personnel. The partial blockade will be valid for the next 15 days.

Thursday, March 19th

Remote work boost the usage of tools such as, Zoom, and Slack

As new coronavirus cases approach stabilization in China, allowing the country to gradually resume its economic activity, Europe, the new epicenter of the disease, and the Americas see COVID-19 spread exponentially. One of the measures taken voluntarily in the United States and Latin America to fight against the rapid advance of the new coronavirus was the effective implementation of remote work by startups and technology-based companies in general. As a result, broadband service providers, cloud storage and management services, as well as organizational and communication tools are seeing their usage and the number of new customers growing impressively.

Home office of one of the employees of, open source communication tool that competes directly with Slack. Photo: spoke with LABS on the subject, and we also checked on Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams at the moment. Read the full article

Thursday, March 19th

Brazilian delivery startup iFood creates BRL 50 million fund to help restaurants

Due to the self-isolation of the Brazilian population as a measure to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the Brazilian startup iFood is creating a fund of BRL $50 million to help its partners establishments. According to O Estado de S.Paulonewspaper, through the fund, the company will allow establishments to anticipate the receipt of payments and will the use of the ‘withdrawal’ tool more flexible, in order to reduce the movement in the restaurants salons. Read the full story

Wednesday, March 18th

Brazil register its third death due to coronavirus

In a press conference this Wednesday afternoon, Brazil’s Minister of Health Luiz Henrique Mandetta said that the country has registered its third death due to coronavirus. Costa Rica has also confirmed its first death caused by the virus. With this, Latin America now has 12 confirmed deaths caused by COVID-19. According to the country’s state health departments, Brazil has 428 infected with the coronavirus.

According to Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, the 20th day of coronavirus in Brazil is worse than in Italy. Italy’s jump was rapid from the twentieth day – it is assumed to be largely due to failures in a Milan hospital. In 23 days there were already 155 cases and three deaths; between the 29th and 30th days, the epidemic exploded and more than a thousand cases and 29 deaths were recorded.

During the press conference, the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was asked about his irresponsible behavior concerning the pandemic. Last weekend, Bolsonaro on the population to protest against Congress and had contact with a few dozen of them even though he was suspected of contracting the virus on a visit to the U.S. To the journalists, this Wednesday, he replied that everything he “has done so far has been to prevent hysteria, panic among the population.”

During the press conference, Bolsonaro wore a mask, as did other ministers. Eleven members of the Brazilian government have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The president said he tested negative for the virus. In the past few days, however, 17 people who met with Bolsonaro have contracted the new coronavirus.

Wednesday, March 18th

MercadoLibre changes brand to encourage the fight against coronavirus

The e-commerce giant MercadoLibre temporarily changed its visual identity amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company stopped illustrating its brand with a handshake to do this with a touch between elbows. The change is followed by the message: “Together. Hand in hand, or not ”. Read the full story.

Wednesday, March 18th

Brazil to declare national calamity to increase and accelerate spending

The Brazilian government announced that the it will ask Congress to declare a national calamity in the country, amid the advancement of the COVID-19 epidemic caused by the coronavirus in the country. The measure will help the government to increase spending without breaching the constitutional spending ceiling and the law that determines fiscal responsibility. It will also make it possible to purchase medical equipment and supplies without public tenders.

On Wednesday afternoon, Brazilian minister of Economy Paulo Guedes announced a new “layer of protection” for self-employed and informal professionals. The initiative will provide a “voucher” of BRL 200 per month for those who do not already receive social benefits from the federal government.

Guedes said the government is also studying a way to help companies in distress to maintain jobs. One possible action, according to him, will be for the government to pay a fraction of employees’ salaries.

Wednesday, March 18th

Colombia orders compulsory isolation of people over 70

In Colombia, after a decree a state of economic and social emergency, the president Iván Duque announced a series of measures. The president’s first initiative was to ordering compulsory preventive isolation for those over 70 years old between March 20 and May 31. On Wednesday, Duque shared the package of economic measures that contemplate a VAT return to one million families in April and more resources to the health system.

Additionally, the President announced that additional transfers will be made to the Families in Action, Youth in Action and Colombia Mayor social programs, to serve more Colombians.

Wednesday, March 18th

Chile’s president declares state of catastrophe for 90 days

Minutes after the health authorities updated details of the cases in Chile, where there are now more than 200 confirmed infections, President Sebastián Piñera announcing a constitutional state of national catastrophe in the face of the emergency.

He explained that “the state of catastrophe will be valid for 90 days and will come into effect on Thursday”

Employee wearing a mask talks with a passenger at a Chilean airport. Photo: Ministerio de Salud del Chile/Twitter

According to El Mercurio, the measure allows the restriction of meetings in public spaces, ensuring the distribution of basic goods and services, ordering the formation of food reserves and other goods necessary for the care and subsistence of the population, establishing quarantines or curfews, dictate measures for the protection of public utility services, and limit the transit or locomotion of people”

Wednesday, March 18th

Argentina pledges more infrastructure spending and price controls on food

Argentina’s economy ministry pledged a package of measures, including tax breaks and higher state spending on infrastructure, to protect the country’s vulnerable economy. Martin Guzman announced the country would channel an additional $1.58 billion toward public works. According to Clarín, the minister also said the administration would set price caps for some food products

Laboratory of the Institute of Microbiology of Buenos Aires ANLIS Malbrán, reference institution for coronavirus tests in Argentina. Photo: Ministerio de Salud de la Nación / Disclosure.

Argentina has recorded 65 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and two deaths, according to the latest data. It has closed borders and ordered tough isolation measures to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

In the past few days,, supermarkets are suffering with the psychosis around coronavirus. Members of the retail industry of the country told Clarín that products such as repellents (for dengue), alcohol in gel, antibacterial soap, laundry and toilet paper and towels area already missing from the shelves.

Fernández also said on Monday that the government will create a special work leave to those over 60 years of age, pregnant women and other groups most at risk. The license will be valid for workers in the public and private sectors.

Wednesday, March 18th

Mexico’s approach sparks tensions with neighbors

Mexico’s government hands-off approach has sparked tensions with El Salvador, whose president blocked a flight Monday from Mexico City to San Salvador, citing subpar sanitary safeguards in Mexico, says The Hill. The main reason is that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador didn’t impose national sanitary measures, but relies on a public service announcement campaign to promote social distancing and hand washing. 

According to El Heraldo de México, Mexican government now allocates the equivalent of 3 years of the INER (National Institute of Respiratory Diseases) budget to face the health emergency for the COVID-19. According to Reuters, Credit Suisse sharply lowered its forecast for Mexico’s economic performance this year. It expects a 4.0% GDP’s contraction. Until Tuesday, there was 93 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Mexico.

The country has been criticized for taking a more relaxed approach to fighting the spread of the virus. On Sunday (15th), the Mexican Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma ordered the advance of the school holidays in July, starting next March 20, and the extension of its duration, to 30 days. But beyond that, few measures have been announced.

Wednesday, March 18th

WHO update + Brazil report = 9 deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean

On Tuesday WHO situation report included eight deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean: two in Argentina; two in Ecuador; one in the Bahamas; one in Dominic Republic; one in Guyana; and one in Panama. The report does not include a confirmed death in Brazil. The total in the region would therefore be nine deaths caused by the COVID-19 virus.

The Brazilian Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, said on Tuesday afternoon that the next 90 days will be “stressful” days, indicating that the upward curve of coronavirus contagion will still persist even with the measures already taken in the country.

Wednesday, March 18th

ICU beds, the biggest concern in Latin America

As coronavirus cases increase and Latin American countries take measures to ease the contagion curve, the main concern of health services is with the number of ICU beds available.

In general, the WHO says that 20% of cases escalate to a state of seriousness, and that 10% of these end up requiring intensive therapy, mainly mechanical ventilation.

Brazil is now the country with the most ICU beds (55 thousand), and is already studying the possibility of creating at least another 1,4 thousand in the state of São Paulo, which has the largest number of cases to date.

A graph made by the Colombian newspaper La Republica from the work of a scientist at the Central University in Bogotá, illustrates the scale of the concern in the region:

Tuesday, March 17th

Brazil has its first death from coronavirus

This Tuesday (17th), the first death from coronavirus was confirmed in the country: a 62-year-old man that had diabetes, hypertension and prostatic hyperplasia. Four other deaths are under investigation in Sao Paulo State may be linked to COVID-19 in the next days. Brazil has, at the moment, 301 confirmed cases of coronavirus. With this first death in Brazil, Latin America have now five fatal confirmed cases of coronavirus.

READ ALSO: iFood announces BRL 1 million fund to assist couriers with COVID-19

On Monday (16th) evening the Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes announced measures of around BRL 150 billion to fight the coronavirus and try to preserve the country’s economy. The resources will be applied on three fronts: BRL 83.4 billion for the most vulnerable population (including through the Bolsa Família cash transfer program and an anticipation of the second installment of the year-end bonus for pensioners), BRL 59.4 billion for maintaining jobs (through tax breaks on firm’s payroll), and direct investments to fight the outbreak.

The Brazilian Central Bank also announced on Monday a measure to facilitate the renegotiation of debts of individuals and companies. Regulators at the National Monetary Council also eased banks’ capital rules so institutions can extend their loan capacity.

It is estimated that approximately BRL 3.2 trillion of credits are eligible to benefit from this measure, “the renegotiation of which will naturally depend on the interest and convenience of the parties involved”, informs the bank.

In general, the Brazilian Ministry of Health has asked for the cancellation or postponement of events with more than 500 people, in addition to recommending that, in general, people do not hold meetings, parties etc. for the next few weeks. It also determined that Brazilians and foreigners coming from abroad should stay 7 days extendable for another 7 days in self-isolation before taking up their normal activities.

Tuesday, March 17th

Peru to declare National Emergency

According to Ministry of Health of Peru the country is about to declare National Emergency in the following hours. until this Tuesday (17th), the country has registered 117 confirmed cases of coronavirus.With the measure, social distancing gains new levels in the country: