Peruvian Government’s Initial Reactions and First Measures

COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 17

COVID-19 arrived in Peru on March 5, 2020. A passenger coming from Europe was the first officially detected case. This was the origin of the pandemic in Peru, which has caused the death of 35,967 persons, according to official data (until the date of last revision of this report).  Even though Peru has one of the highest rate of deaths per million habitants in the world, there are some serious investigations like the one conducted by IDL- Reporteros, which indicated the numbers of deaths caused by the disease are far more than the officially reported (in fact, on July 22, the Government added 3,688 persons to the total number of deaths caused by COVID-19).

First Measures to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic 

After the declaration of COVID-19 as a “global” pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11,2020 the Peruvian Government issued Supreme Decree N° 008-2020-SA on the same date and declared state of health emergency on the country for a period of ninety (90) calendar days to fight the disease. The main measures taken -at that moment- were that the Health Ministry would make a plan of action and a list of goods and services needed to face the urgent medical crisis. Another measure adopted was to order domiciliary isolation for people coming from certain countries listed by the Center of Epidemiology, Prevention and Control of  Diseases of the Health Ministry for a term of fourteen (14) days. Italy, Spain, France, and China were included in the list, at that time. 

A very good number of the legal measures adopted by the Government can be found at this official website.  At this website, it is also possible to learn in detail about the public spending to fight the pandemic; updated statistics of the disease; services provided to the population; protocols and procedures during the emergency for the labor and health sectors; as well as the agriculture and livestock farming, among others. Alternatively, it is possible to find legal measures adopted during the COVID-19 period in this website created by the Peruvian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Next, On March 12, through Ministerial Resolution 083-2020-PCM, an official multisectoral commission was created. It is in charge of coordinating and articulating an integral response of the Peruvian Government to fight COVID-19. Specifically, its tasks are oriented to prevent, protect and control the spread of the virus within Peruvian territory. A few days later, on March 15, seeing the gravity of the situation caused by COVID-19, a state of national emergency was declared in the country for fifteen (15) days, beginning the following day. Thus, the exercise of constitutional rights relating to personal freedom, inviolability of the dwelling, and freedom of assembly and transit were restricted. An enforced mandatory social isolation (quarantine) was put in place for fifteen (15) days across the country, therefore social gatherings and public events were prohibited. People could only leave their homes to buy food. All businesses, except those considered essential were obliged to close. This was joined with a nightly curfew. All persons were required to stay at home from 20.00 hours to 05.00 hours of the following day. If the curfew was violated, prison and a fine could be imposed to the infringers. This was implemented by the army and the police.

Furthermore, international borders, as well as national and international flights and trips were forbidden for the same period of time. Moreover, “the government (…) developed a comprehensive economic relief and aid program to protect the vulnerable population and support companies, including cash- transfers, tax payments deferrals and credit guarantees for the private sector”, which was praised internationally. No doubt, Peru put in place an  aggressive plan to stop the spread of the disease and to diminish the negative effects in the economy caused by the forced quarantine of the population. However, in the middle of the pandemic, disobedience of the quarantine by Peruvians for various reasons has been frequent.

The development of COVID-19 

The first death due to the disease occurred on March 19. Since that date, the periods that brought up the more cases were July 19-August 19 and August 19-September 19. About 200,000 positive cases were officially detected, respectively, and the periods with more deaths were during June 19-July 19 with about 14,000 deaths, and about 6,000 deaths during July 19-August 19. To date, in total almost a million positive cases have been confirmed. 68.91% of the total deaths are men and 31.06 % account for women. Of those numbers, adults from 60-69 years old were the group most affected by deaths.    

It is relevant to add that Maria Hinostroza was the Minister of Health at the time the first COVID-19 case was officially detected in Peru, but she was rapidly replaced on March 20,2020. Victor Zamora was designated in her place. He was Minister for less than four (4) months. He was later replaced by Pilar Mazzetti, who is currently leading the Minister, after a short interruption on her mandate due to the removal of President Vizcarra by Congress and the assumption of power of Merino. Indeed, Abel Salinas was Minister of Health for three days. Massive national demonstrations against the Government which removed President Vizcarra, led Merino and his cabinet to resign on November 15.

For instance in Peru, it is difficult to know whether presidents will finish their terms or whether they will be in prison next month, accused of corruption. Former President Garcia (1985-1990 and 2006-2011) committed suicide in April 2019, after a judge ordered his detention for ten (10) days. Fujimori (1990-2000) is in prison. Toledo (2001-2006) was arrested in California and is awaiting extradition proceedings. Humala (2011-2016) spent nine (9) months in pretrial detention. Kuczynski (2016-2018) was forced to resign. And Vizcarra was successfully impeached by Congress in November 2020.

The Effect of the Pandemic in the Economy

In the last twenty (20) years, Peru had an average annual Gross Domestic Product (GPD) rate of 4.6 % percent, while other Latin American countries had a 2.7 % annual growth rate despite the occurrence of world crises like the one in 2008. However, this time the quarantine had a terrible impact on the Peruvian economy. During the first half of the year, Peru’s GDP declined 17.4 %. According to credible sources, its economy will be the hardest hit in Latin America and will suffer the third worst recession in the world in 2020. Standard & Poor’s estimates that the GDP will contract by 13.5% in 2020.  

By Juan Andres Fuentes

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