Peru Steps Up Reopening, Undeterred by Over 5,000 Deaths
Jun 05, 2020
By John Quigley
Peru authorized more parts of the economy to reopen even as deaths from the virus surpassed 5,000 and hospitals in Lima begin running low on oxygen for patients.
The government said a wide range of sectors, from roadbuilding to beermaking and printing, could restart, along with inter-provincial transport services, according to decree published Thursday. Seven of the country’s 25 regions were exempted from the measure given their high prevalence of Covid-19 cases.
President Martin Vizcarra said the move would see 80% of the economy reopened, up from close to 50% now. ”We can’t support 100% of the country’s needs with just 50% of the economy’s output,” he said.
The country has become a hotspot for the virus, with the most cases in Latin America after Brazil and the total number of confirmed deaths hitting 5,031 on Thursday. Despite Peru locking down hard and early, the virus spread nationwide and its precarious healthcare system was quickly overwhelmed.
Lima accounts for most of the cases and in recent days hospitals in the city have begun to run low on supplies of medicinal oxygen for Covid-19 patients. The scarcity prompted the government on Thursday to order oxygen plants to prioritize medicinal usage over industrial consumption. Vizcarra said the Health Ministry will receive 84 million soles ($24 million) to buy as much oxygen as needed.
The government initiated a four-phase reopening plan for the economy last month, as officials said the spread of the virus was slowing. Large mines began stepping up output as part of the first phase.
The economic impact of lockdown has been dramatic. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria said last week the economy could contract by as much as 20% this year, the deepest slump since the 19th century.
The killer virus proliferated via food markets, public transport, and long queues of people outside banks waiting to collect government handouts.